Athletics maintains pole place as No.1 Olympic sport in emphatic fashion

Numbers from the Tokyo Games show that athletics is more popular than anything, but World Athletics President Seb Coe warns we shouldn’t rest on our laurels

In recent years, cycling, swimming and gymnastics have threatened the traditional supremacy of athletics as the largest and most popular Olympic sport. Triathlon, beach volleyball, surfing and skateboarding also leave their mark.

However, athletics remains the No. 1 sport at the world’s greatest show. World Athletics President Seb Coe says this is also not based on anecdotal evidence, but rather on pure statistics.

“With 2.2 million hours, we had the most broadcast hours in Tokyo by far ahead of all other Olympic sports,” he said on Friday in an interview at the end of the year.

“Athletics had the most media articles compared to other sports – around 10,000 -” he added. “We had the highest number of articles shared on our social media, around 700 million, and this resulted in over 62 million athletics social media conversations and the most video views in the entire IOC and Tokyo Olympics.” Apps and website. “

Coe admits he enjoys rubbing this up in IOC circles or mingling with people from other sports associations. But he refuses to become complacent.

When asked whether athletics has been in danger of losing its pole position in recent years or whether it may stumble in the future, he replies, “Look, it’s actually not a bad quality in life, with anything being a little paranoid. While I am President of World Athletics, my intention is to make sure our sport gets stronger, more representative around the world, and that every time we leave a championship we have dates to think about.

“I’m proud to say that we’re the # 1 Olympic sport, but that’s just a metric because there are other sports like basketball that are an Olympic sport, but when you see them in their professional manifestation (it’s huge ).

“So we have to realize that there are other sports and there are other sports that we may not even think about at the moment. I recently read a very interesting article that had a slight glimpse into the future about the fact that there are AI algorithms that are actually trying to figure out what the next sport might look like at the moment. “

Coe says World Athletics plans to work on the sport’s popularity in 2022 and have an excellent opportunity to “make an indelible footprint” at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

The global governing body plans to do this through social media, but without neglecting the role of television. “We can’t underestimate the power of television,” says Coe.

There are also discussions about the production of a Netflix-like documentary series about athletics in a style similar to the Drive to Survive programs about Formula 1 and The Last Dance about the Chicago Bulls basketball team during the Michael Jordan era.

“We cannot rest on our laurels,” he continues. “And while it’s nice to be able to say that we’re the No. 1 Olympic sport, this can’t just be an academic conversation because the biggest challenge we face may not be the sport. It comes from other areas of activity where young people have a shorter focus.

“What they consume in terms of content is (today) much shorter. When you speak to someone on a show, they will tell you that the average length most people prefer to watch a television program is around 7-8 minutes. This means that we have to be very clear that our benchmark is not just sport.

“If our activity is sport, our business is entertainment – and we mustn’t forget that. And that is not to be thrown overboard, what we celebrate as our sport. But we just have to realize that we live in a very rapidly changing world and that sport is just one element of that in young people’s lives. And for some young people, it’s less important than ever. And we have to make sure that we just go with that time. “

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