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Diack: Africa can host World Athletics Championships soon

From Pedro Pinto, CNN
updated 6:33 AM EST, Tue January 3, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • IAAF president backs Africa to host athletics' showpiece event in near future
  • Lamine Diack tells CNN that world championships are more affordable
  • Senegalese official says London's legacy was important in winning 2017 bid
  • Diack confident he will not be found guilty of accepting illegal payments

(CNN) -- Africa is ready to host the World Athletics Championships for the first time, the sport's president Lamine Diack told CNN.

South Africa became the first nation from the continent to stage football's World Cup last year, while Cape Town finished third in the bidding for the 2004 Olympic Games.

The nine-day athletics showpiece lays claim to being the third biggest sporting event on the planet behind those two competitions, but requires significantly less investment in infrastructure for the host nation.

"I think you could have a good bid from Africa in 2019, 2021," said IAAF chief Diack, who is from Senegal. "I think that there is a country and an African city that can organize it.

"But you must plan the development of your city because in order to have all this investment, you need to have the facilities."

While a successful Olympic bid, such as London 2012, requires a large stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies alone, a world championships can be run on a smaller scale.

Diack: 'Britain a nation of athletics'

"London had Wembley. It's probably easy to do at Wembley and not to build a new stadium, but they wanted to develop this area of London. They can do that," Diack said.

"I think if you have a vision of development in your city, athletics can do that, the Olympics can be the way.

"The world championships are easier. You need a good stadium, good facilities -- they have these in many African countries, but you need the willingness of the government to say, 'I'm going to put in $50 million.' "

London has also won the right to host the 2017 world championships, beating a big-money bid from Qatar which -- on top of the $8 million prize fund -- offered a reported $33 million in sponsorships of the IAAF's competitions, awards dinners and development programs.

The world championships are easier. You need a good stadium, good facilities -- they have these in many African countries
Lamine Diack

The UK capital made a late move by matching the prize purse, but Diack said concerns over the legacy of its new Olympic stadium were forefront in the decision process.

"I think they picked London because, as you know, we had a very big fight to have this stadium stay in London," the 78-year-old said.

"It's a pity that for the Olympics, we build a stadium with 100,000 seats for an opening and closing ceremony and for athletics and, at the end, say, 'We'll destroy it.' And certainly, I feel that Britain is a very great nation of athletics."

The bidding process for football's 2018 and 2022 World Cups, won by Russia and Qatar, came under great scrutiny due to allegations of corruption against top officials at ruling body FIFA.

Diack is also facing an International Olympic Committee inquiry over claims that he received illegal payments from now defunct Swiss company ISL, which had an exclusive marketing contract with the IAAF for the world championships.

"I think they discovered that I received money in 1993. In 1993, something very difficult happened to me: my house was burned (down). They burned my house with all of my family inside," said Diack, who has been IAAF president since 1999 and was this year re-elected until 2015.

"Fortunately, no-one died, but I lost my house and I had no insurance, so I had to find a way to rent a house, find a way to build up my own house, buy something else. So many friends knew this and they said, 'We'll send my support.'

"I received this. When they asked me, I started by saying, 'This is what happened.' I didn't hear again from the ethical commission."

It's a pity that for the Olympics, we build a stadium with 100,000 seats and, at the end, say, 'We'll destroy it'
Lamine Diack

Diack, a former athlete who held the French/West African long jump record from 1957-60 and is now an IOC member, said he is confident he will not be found guilty of wrongdoing when the IOC considers the case in December.

"Absolutely. There's no problem," he said.

"And, to be clear, when I became president, the first thing that I decided is that ISL used to be our marketing company for the television rights in Europe, getting 50% of the money. I decided that we didn't need ISL, I have to make a direct contract with someone else, and so I made a contract with someone else.

"If the ethical commission says they want to meet me, I will go to them. If the executive board says, 'We want to meet,' I will go to them and I will explain myself, but I don't find myself guilty of any wrongdoing."

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