On Tuesday, International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe  was of the opinion that India has the potential to make a mark in track and field events if it utilizes the opportunities offered by its love of sport, its huge population and size of the market.

Coe said athletics officials in India must generate revenues even though it is a challenge and take the sport to a new level. “With its love for sport, its population, the great interest in broadcasting and commercial opportunities, India can make a mark. That is important for us,” Coe said, ahead of the 22nd Asian Athletics Championships which begins at the Kalinga Stadium from Thursday.

“Asia has the potential with about 60 per cent of the world’s young. It understands sport and we need to make sure that the young understand our sport better. China and Japan have shown the way,” he said. He described the Asian Athletics Championships as an important development for track and field sport in the continent in general and India in particular.

Coe said the arrangements at the warm-up track at the Kalinga Stadium were of high quality. “I spent some time there and interacted with some athletes. I can tell you they are pleased with the arrangements there,” he said, adding that he was delighted to be visiting the capital city of Odisha for the first time.

“A sport has to innovate and stay relevant,” he continued. Coe said, “IAAF was working to streamline the athletics calendar, the nature of competition and to make high profile athletes support their member federations in fostering the sport.”

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“Diamond League series was up for review and suggested that it could see some changes. Besides, the IAAF was focusing on curbing age fraud, transfer of allegiance of athletes and result manipulation,” he added.

“Our sport is a lot cleaner now with good technology and processes in place,” Coe said, in response to a question on the doping menace in athletics. “More important, the will among most federations and coaches to make our sport free, fair and open is strong,” said Coe, whose maternal grandfather was a Punjabi.

“We freed up the timetable for the World Championships in London to allow athletes to go for double gold medals in 200m and 400m. The public deserves to see such attempts,” he said. “At World Championships, if you look up the roof of the stadium, you will find the flags of 200 nations. It’s tougher to win in our sport which demands a long apprenticeship period,” he concluded.

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