Lamine Diack, pictured at the World Cross Country Championships,  has defended the IAAF decision to award the 2021 World Championships to Eugene ©Getty Images

The Council of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the recent decision to bypass normal procedure and award the 2021 Athletics World Championships to the city of Eugene in the United States, Lamine Diack, the body’s President, has told insidethegames.

Questioned here at the SportAccord Convention World Sport & Business Summit, which he is attending, Diack said that, after a full debate, the Council had voted 23-2 in favour of the proposal.

“I am not a dictator…I am a democrat,” he said.

He argued that the promise of a full stadium for nine days in a true athletics town with the action broadcast by NBC constituted “an opportunity to be seized”.

His comments came less than a week after the IAAF announced, following the second day of its Council meeting in Beijing, that the US would host the World Championships for the first time, in a decision taken “in response to what was seen as a unique strategic opportunity”.

The statement added that Eugene, which was unsuccessful in bidding for the 2019 IAAF World Championships last November, awarded to Doha, had “uniquely combined the commitment of the funding by the Governor of Oregon with the financial support of the United States Olympic Committee and the guarantee of NBC to produce and broadcast in cooperation with Universal Sports the Championships live across America.”

Eugene also hosted last summer's World Junior Athletics Championships ©Getty Images
Eugene also hosted last summer's World Junior Athletics Championships ©Getty Images

The decision was criticised as “clandestine” by Björn Eriksson, President of Swedish Athletics, who had been hoping to put forward Gothenburg, the 1995 host-city, as a candidate.

The date of 2021 is a momentous one for the Swedish city, since it will mark the 400th anniversary of its foundation by royal charter by King Gustavus Adolphus.

A plainly unrepentant Diack, who will be replaced as IAAF President by either Britain's Sebastian Coe or Ukraine's Sergey Bubka at the Congress on August 19 ahead of this year’s World Championships in Beijing, said he was sorry and would go to see Gothenburg, but underlined that the decision to go with Eugene was a strategic one.

Under the Oregon city’s proposal for 2019, the Championships would have been staged at Hayward Field with the size of the stadium being temporarily increased from its present capacity of 10,500 to 30,000, the minimum size stipulated by the IAAF.

Nicknamed TrackTown USA, Eugene and the city’s University of Oregon have been the site of the past two US Olympic trials for Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and will host next year’s event to pick the American team for Rio 2016.

It also held last year’s IAAF World Junior Championships and is the site of the annual Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting.

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