Alan Hubbard: While many from London 2012 have moved on to pastures new, will Coe himself now run for Mayor of London?

Tuesday, 02 July 2013
Alan HubbardWho was that chap standing alongside Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outside Number 11 Downing Street on Budget Day, occasionally glancing down nervously at the famous Red Box?

The face was familiar. For those who didn't recognise him it was Paul Deighton, who this time last year was getting set to raise the curtain on London's great Olympic show as impresario Lord Coe's principal stage manager.

Then he was London 2012's chief executive, the man Seb himself said was the lynchpin of the entire 2012 operation, and one of the main reasons why it all ran so smoothly.

Now he is Lord Deighton of Carshalton, Osborne's chief henchman as commercial secretary to the Treasury, a key figure in reviving Britain's fiscal fortunes.

George Osborne Paul DeightonPaul Deighton (right) is now commercial secretary to the Treasury

What a difference a year makes. Forty-nine weeks ago, Deighton, already a multi-millionaire who had been plucked by Coe from the City well before the moguls of the banking industry became the nation's bêtes noire, was putting the finishing touches to the Glory Games from behind the scenes.

He was, said Coe, "the best appointment I ever made."

Cameron thought so, too, and persuaded him to take up the Treasury post from the House of Lords once the Olympics were done and gold-dusted.

Deighton's brief was to "bring some of the Olympics magic to the broader economy".

Arsenal supporter Deighton, who made his fortune as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, was the prime architect of the latest Spending Review, in which elite sport fared rather better than expected.

As the first anniversary of the Games approaches, Deighton is by no means alone in being one of Coe's Class of 2012 who have moved successfully to pastures new on the back of their contributions to the Olympics.

The Games had a cast of thousands, many of whom are now regular attendees at the Job Centre. Of course, all knew when they were hired that it was not a job for life.

However, the principals seem to have fared rather better than the chorus line.

Most, if not all, of Coe's big hitters appear to be gainfully employed elsewhere.

Debbie Jevans has moved on to become chief executive of England Rugby 2015Debbie Jevans has moved on to become chief executive of England Rugby 2015

While Deighton is in Government, Debbie Jevans, London 2012's brilliant director of sports, is now organising England's 2015 Rugby World Cup as the tournament's chief executive.

This is a role for which she was snapped up before Coe took charge at British Olympic Association (BOA), where it was widely believed he had earmarked her to replace Andy Hunt as that organisation's chief executive.

It was also thought that his much-lauded communications chief Jackie Brock-Doyle, named PR Week's Professional of the Year for 2012 for her work the Olympics and Paralympics, might move with him to the BOA.

Instead she collected an OBE and landed herself a plum post as chief executive of A-listed PR outfit Good Relations, part of the Chime Communications group now owned by Bell Pottinger, which she has taken up after a six-week business course at Harvard.

In addition to overseeing Good Relations, Brock-Doyle will also be involved in CSM, the Chime-owned sports marketing division now chaired by former boss Coe.

Her own number two at London 2012, Joanna Manning-Cooper has joined Jevans at Twickenham as the World Cup's communications and marketing director.

Nice work if you can get it– and having proven ability via 2012 suggests you can.

Sir Craig ReedieSir Craig Reedie (left) is likely to become the next WADA President

Of other London 2012 denizens, Sir Craig Reedie, now an executive board member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and currently leading the 2020 Games Evaluation Commission, is expected to become President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) later this year.

Curiously, Coe's estimable deputy chair, Sir Keith Mills, despite being touted for just about every vacant hot seat in sport, including the Football Association, Premier League, UK Sport and Sport England, did not push for any of them.

However, he did lead the selection panel for the Sport England chair but his (and the Sports Minister's) recommendation of Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson was disgracefully snubbed for what insiders suggest were personal reasons by Culture Secretary Maria Miller.

Now Tottenham Hotspur director Mills is concentrating on pursuing his sailing interests, identifying races such as the Vendee Globe as marketing opportunities that could help grow the IMOCA 60 class around the world.

Last year, he bought the global commercial rights to the class, which for years has been dominated by the French, describing it as "one of the best products" he had ever worked with.

He has subsequently launched Open Sports Management (OSM) as a vehicle to commercialise the sport in the same way that Bernie Ecclestone turned F1 motor racing into a multi-million pound business.

Could Sebastian Coe replace Boris Johnson as Mayor of LondonCould Sebastian Coe (right) replace Boris Johnson (left) as Mayor of London?

Which brings us back to his friend Lord Coe himself. We know he has taken the reins at then BOA and has already implemented strategic changes following the exit of fellow Tory peer Lord Colin Moynihan. But there is now growing speculation about a possible return to politics even before the 2016 Rio Olympics, something he has previously resisted.

Will his close friendship with Prime Minister David Cameron entice him to change his mind and run for Mayor of London if Boris Johnson, as is widely supposed, stands for Parliament at the next election to further his own leadership ambitions?

There is no doubt the Prime Minister would snatch Lord Coe's hand off knowing his candidacy would virtually ensure the City Hall post remains in Tory hands, such is his lordships' public esteem in the wake of a euphoric Olympics.

Coe has always maintained that his five years as a MP for Falmouth were far from the happiest of his life; but the mayoralty would be different. Although he has said he would never return to real politics there is possible scenario which could bring about a U-turn in 2015.

This is a critical year for Coe, who is set to bid for the Presidency of world athletics, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), a post which would automatically guarantee him membership of the IOC, which he is reasonably predicted to head one day.

However, it is strongly rumoured that the present IAAF overlord, octogenarian Senegalese judge Lamine Diack, may now opt not to retire, a situation that would leave Coe's sports political aspirations in limbo.

Especially as his chief rival, Ukraine's pole vault star Sergey Bubka, already an IOC member, has already thrown his hat into the Olympic rings as one of six candidates vying to take over from Jacques Rogge in September.

Coe's new role with the BOA is unpaid, but he stands to make around £12 million ($18 million/€14 million) from the sale of his leisure management consultancy firm to Chime Communications. So he is hardly on the breadline.

Some who attended the Tory party spring lunch at London's Dorchester Hotel say the tone of a speech he made there suggested his appetite may have been whetted for a comeback to the political arena. If this is the case, the BoJo baton is ready and waiting.

But word also reaches us of an equally intriguing speculative scenario. That his main opponent in any mayoral race could be another fellow London 2012 board member Dame Tessa Jowell, the former Olympics Minister (and Minister for London), between whom there was always a healthy respect despite the political divide.

I'm told she would not be averse to accepting the Labour nomination. Now that would be an Olympian battle well worth waiting for.

Alan Hubbard is a sports columnist for The Independent on Sunday, and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Games, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire.
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