The prospect of Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt missing the Rio Olympics through injury will rightly give organisers and fans palpitations.
But track and field’s chief administrator, Sebastian Coe, insisted today that the Summer Games were not based around one athlete, albeit acknowledging the “genius” of the six-time Olympic gold medallist.
Bolt is facing a race against time to be fit in his bid for an unprecedented third treble Olympic gold with the Rio Games just four weeks away.
Bolt withdrew from the 100m final of last week’s Jamaican Olympic Trials with what the 100 and 200m world record holder described as a mildly torn left hamstring.
“He’s important but he’s not the only athlete that’s going to be in Rio,” IAAF president Coe told a small group of journalists on the sidelines of the European Athletics Championships in Amsterdam.
“We have some extraordinary world-class athletes. But I accept the man is a genius. He’s probably the most recognisable sportsman or woman on the planet.
“It’s a high-class problem. Many sports would really like to be discussing a Usain Bolt in their ranks: they don’t and they can’t.
“He’s hugely important. But the one thing I know about a championships as a competitor, an organiser and now a federation president, is that they rarely hinge on the performance of one person.”
Coe, who won two Olympic 1500m golds and two 800m silvers for Britain in the 1980 and 1984 Games, added: “There will be athletes who emerge through the Rio Games who will become household names. If you think about some of the competitors we’ve got going, it’s a feast of outrageous, god-given talent.”
The IAAF, Coe admitted, had its work cut out to better “publicise and broaden public appreciation of the talents” of more unheard-of athletes.
“Maybe we do need to redouble our efforts,” he said. “It’s the way we engage, particularly with young people, on social and digital media. We’re looking at that in a very much more creative way than we have.
“I’m open about it. Our sport has fallen behind other sports in that approach, particularly some of the US-based sports.
“They really now do know (how to best manage the approach) and have turned it into a science in terms of engaging with young people. We can do that, we just have to be more interesting and excited about it.”