Two weeks ago, Lord Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the Local Organising Committee of the London Olympic Games, proudly took David Rudisha around London’s Olympic Park that will be central to the July-August Games.
The two may live in different worlds, Coe, 56, in the heart of London, busy wearing his fingers away on final Olympic Games paperwork and Rudisha, 23, some 7,100 kilometres away in Eldoret, training hard to achieve the Olympic dream.
But the two share a lot in common, most significantly both having broken the world 800 metres record, not once, but twice. Coe broke the mark first in Oslo, Norway, in 1979, clocking one minute, 42.33 seconds, before improving his own record to 1:41.73 in Florence, Italy, two years later, a record that stood for 16 years before Kenya-born Dane Wilson Kipketer equalled it and improved it to 1:41.24 and then 1:41.11.
Rudisha then took over and in a week’s span in 2008, he ran 1:41.09 and 1:41.01 in Berlin, Germany, and Rieti, Italy, respectively.
And on Wednesday, Coe, a former Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne in England, said Kenyan athletes are a great hit in Great Britain and he looks forward to hosting Rudisha and co. for the Games.
Coe, speaking to the Daily Nation on telephone from Dar es Salaam where he is touring as part of the London Olympics’ International Inspiration programme, said he was proud, as a member of the Laureus World Sports Academy, to have voted for triple world champion Vivian Cheruiyot as the female world sportswoman of the year on Monday.
“Kenyan athletes are very popular in the United Kingdom and many of them spend a lot of time training and competing in the United Kingdom and it would be great to welcome them for the Olympics,” said Coe.
The London Olympics chief said he was happy with the Games legacy programme saying many will benefit from London hosting the Games.
“The fact that there are more young people playing sport and there are economic dividends of about six billion pounds into British businesses are strong legacies,” he said.
“The games will leave a track and field stadium which will also be used for the 2017 World Championships in Athletics, and the Olympic Stadium is now a national asset.”
On Wednesday, media reports quoted London Assembly member, Andrew Boff, as saying that Londoners are not confident of benefitting from the Olympics, and Coe’s response was astute: “He’s clearly out of touch with the reality.”
Over 12 million youth in 20 countries have benefited from the London Olympics’ International Inspiration programme. Coe is on a tour of some of the beneficiary nations which do not include Kenya, considered quite advanced in terms of Olympism.