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Seb Coe: Guiding London into the Olympic limelight

  • Story Highlights
  • Chairman of London's Olympic Games Organizing Committee
  • One of the greatest middle-distance runners; won gold in 1980 and 1984 Olympics
  • Has often faced sport vs politics debate while an athlete and as a UK politician
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(CNN) -- For Sebastian Coe, one of Britain's greatest athletes, the glory of winning Olympic gold medals comes in second to clinching the Olympics Games for London in 2012.

"Am I prouder of what we did as a team [in Singapore] than what I did individually? Probably the answer is yes."

"Am I prouder of what we did as a team [in Singapore] than what I did individually? Probably the answer is yes," he told CNN's Anjali Rao.

For someone who broke 12 world records, won Olympic gold medals in the 1500-meters in Moscow in 1980 and four years later in Los Angeles, and was knighted for his achievements, that is some statement.

Yet as chairman of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games, Coe is now fully focused on making the Games in the city of his birth one of the best ever.

It's a drive and single-mindedness that once made his one of the best ever middle-distance runners.

While he observes the Beijing Games with great interest, he will have one eye on the London event in 2012 and the legacy that it will leave.

"I think the some of the things that we can do off the back of the Games are profound. The test in this whole project is touching the majority of the population and a large chunk of the world by 2012. And inspiring young people to do things that perhaps they hadn't thought about," he said.

His passion and focus for sport have not diminished since he retired from athletics in 1990. His impassioned speech in Singapore in 2005 is credited with giving the London Olympic bid the final boost it needed to secure the Games.

Even while still competing he was involved in the running of sports, taking the role of vice-chairman of the British Sports Council in 1986. His interest in politics had been life-long and in 1992 he became a member of parliament for the UK's Conservative party until 1997, and then chief of staff for the Conservative party leader from 1997 to 2001.

His first experience of the sport vs politics debate however came in 1980 when he made the decision to attended the Moscow Olympics, despite the majority of the British team boycotting the event.

"I am sure that people examine their conscious all the time. I examined mine when I decided to go to Moscow in 1980 and I examined mine when I decided not to compete in South Africa during the 1980's. Athletes' organizations and administrations do that all the time," he said.

His decision to run in Moscow was rewarded by winning the 1500m, beating his great rival British middle-distance runner Steve Ovett, after Ovett had won the 800m.

Coe's father and coach said after his performance in the shorter distance race that he had run "like an idiot".

Show times

Friday, August 15

2330 (Asia/South Asia/North America)

Saturday , August 16

1500 (All Regions)

Sunday, August 17

0030 (Europe/Asia/South Asia/North America)

0730 (All Regions)

1300 (Asia/South Asia/North America)


"He felt that when I ran badly he was the architect of a lot of the programs and he couldn't just walk away from some of the responsibility. But he was tough... I knew that I had a coach that who was made of the right stuff," he said.

Coe has often said that his father had a huge influence on his life and career. Growing up in Sheffield, Coe gained a double bachelor of arts degree from Loughborough and took up athletics at the age of 12.

"I just got excited as my career went on and I was very lucky, I probably had the best coach in middle distance ever," he told CNN.

If anything, his belief that sport can have positive effects has probably increased since he retired as an athlete and front-line politician.

"I believe that international sport is a powerful vehicle for change; is it a powerful vehicle for brining communities together in a way that sometimes politicians don't manage to do," he said.

"You have to tread very carefully when you start attributing to international sport the powers that should be undertaken by United Nations Security Councils. International sport can do a great deal, but it is not the first line of foreign policy."

All About LondonSportsSebastian Coe

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