World Athletics President Sebastian Coe. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: World Athletics President Sebastian Coe has called for enhanced communication while laying down clear-cut strategies to drive growth of sports across the world.

World Athletics reopened of its headquarters earlier this week and among the first things the world governing body did was to discuss with its 214 Member Federations an updated Olympic qualifying process for Tokyo 2020 along with a fresh strategic plan that will drive growth of the sport.

All three online meetings on Wednesday, that were chaired by Coe, also sought clarity on the latest medical advice on the coronavirus pandemic, particularly as it impacts athletes returning to training and competition. The body also discussed means to adapt to the short-term challenges and opportunities the sport has as the world begins to emerge from lockdown.

“It is always important to communicate regularly with all member federations especially during this unprecedented situation. Our head office may have been closed for 11 weeks, but we have not been idle. We have used that time to continue to develop our strategy to grow athletics. A huge amount of work has been put into developing our four-year Strategic Plan, led by our CEO [Jon Ridgeon] and with input and involvement from all concerned,” Coe said.

“This is an exceptional body of work that brings together all the great things we do as a global sport body with a laser-sharp focus on doing it better, and includes some innovative and creative ideas to drive growth in our sport. It is exactly the type of road map our sport needs to bring together all our stakeholders with a single vision, mission and clear priorities.”

Coe further noted how the lockdown period has thrown open a huge growth opportunity for sport all over the globe. “Over the next few months we have an unprecedented opportunity on the back of the increased physical activity of people in lockdown. The latest research from runrepeat.com shows that exercise has increased 88 per cent during lockdown and running and walking has topped the tables,” he said.

“We need to inspire these people to continue the habits they have learnt and we will with our own campaigns but also by embracing campaigns that many others in our sport are driving.”

The WA vision will be to use the power and accessibility of athletics and athletes to create a healthier and fitter world, while the mission will be based on three driving principles of growth, inspiration and leadership.

“We need to grow our sport and make it relevant in peoples’ lives and the lives of their communities. We need to inspire by creating globally appealing and accessible competitions, events, and activities so our talented athletes can entertain and inspire the world in turn and we also need to lead by being the best example of a well-governed sports federation taking brave leadership decisions and valuing partnerships that deliver athletics around the world,” Coe said.

“The full strategic plan will be available by the end of June. World Athletics will continue to host regular online meetings with our Member Federations and stakeholders to keep everyone informed and discuss issues of mutual interest as we navigate our way through these challenging times.”

As per the latest meetings, the qualification principles for Tokyo 2020 will remain unchanged with the first step of qualification through entry standards (which also remain unchanged) followed by world rankings. Further, athletes who have already met the entry standard since the start of the qualification period in 2019 will remain qualified with other athletes to qualify within the extended qualification period.

However, athletes will need to consider that the WA has suspended qualification period for all events held between April 6 to November 30, 2020.