Lord Coe praises sport ‘maintaining relationships’ after May’s Russia response
Prime Minister Theresa May said ministers and royals would not attend the World Cup in Russia this summer.
Lord Coe has praised sport’s benefits on diplomacy after Theresa May’s response to the nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter included Government ministers and royals boycotting the World Cup in Russia.
The Prime Minister announced the biggest mass expulsion of diplomats since the Cold War over the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury which she blamed on Russia.
The Conservative peer and president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) was careful on Wednesday to state he did not want to comment on Government policy.
But asked about Mrs May’s response to football’s biggest event this summer, Lord Coe stressed sport’s importance on world affairs.
“I have always believed that sport actually is an extremely useful vehicle for maintaining relationships,” he told the Press Association in Los Angeles.
“Actually there’s a permanency about them and you have to be quite careful when you don’t always recognise maybe the impact that sport has can be quite a conciliatory one.
“So I’m really clear, I’m not remotely observing the political landscape, that’s not my responsibility remotely, but I think where possible it’s always better to try and maintain good, strong sporting relationships.”
He added: “The world is complex, we all know that, but I genuinely do think sport has a very important role to play in trying to help sometimes just normalise situations.”
For example, Lord Coe noted, there appears to be a remaining dialogue between North and South Korea following the recent Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who responded to the pair found slumped on a bench in Salisbury on March 4, remain in hospital.
Lord Coe himself has threatened Russia with the “ultimate sanction” of expulsion from the IAAF because of its refusal to admit having run a state-sponsored doping programme.
But the former Tory MP said any political events between the UK and Russia will have no impact on the IAAF’s decision, which he assured would be independent.
Lord Coe, who oversaw the London 2012 Olympics, was recently forced to defend himself after being criticised in a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee report into doping.
The 61-year-old double Olympic champion had denied an allegation of “misleading” the panel about when he was aware of Russia’s systemic cheating and corruption.
He was not eager to discuss the case. Asked about how he would respond, he said: “We’re looking at that now.”
Lord Coe was speaking after a Q&A event in the Californian city for the British American Business Council Los Angeles.