The British Government ordered its embassies to lobby on behalf of Sebastian Coe ahead of last year’s International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Presidential election at which the British double Olympic gold medal winner defeated Sergey Bubka, the Ukrainian ex-pole vault champion, by 115 votes to 92.
Diplomatic correspondence released to the Associated Press following a freedom of information request shows that a telegram signed by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was dispatched last May, three months before the August vote.
Associated Press said that the telegram, dated May 21, was worded as follows: “We request ALL posts to lobby on behalf of Lord Coe.”
It continued: “This is an important international appointment for the UK and his campaign has the personal support of the Prime Minister.”
Among related items also released was an email, which insidethegames has a copy of, suggesting that Coe had specifically requested Prime Minister David Cameron’s assistance with trying to win Simgapore’s vote.
The email, whose sender and recipients are blacked out, was dated June 17, just over a month before a Prime Ministerial visit to Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia to boost UK trade and investment.
It reads: “Please see to follow BLACKED OUT response to this potential deliverable and his meeting with Lord Coe just recently…
“He came for coffee a week past Saturday. At this point, he’s not convinced that the Singapore delegate is onside but would welcome the PM’s help and thought it could make a difference. It’s the sort of thing that would best be done through a private word from PM to PM Lee rather than during the lunch in front of others…It may be that we’d need to try to engineer an informal meeting.”
While in Singapore, Prime Minister Cameron met Singapore President Tony Tan and gave a press conference with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong.
Notwithstanding historical British ties to the region, it is not in the least surprising that Singapore should have manifested sympathy for Bubka’s campaign.
As part of his role as an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, the Ukrainian chaired both the Evaluation and Coordination Commissions for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.
This event was staged by Singapore in 2010.
For all athletics’ status as the bedrock Olympic sport, the IAAF Presidency that Coe fought so hard to obtain has turned out to be a poisoned chalice owing to the Russian doping scandal and serious allegations levelled against Lamine Diack, Coe’s predecessor as IAAF President.
Coe and his IAAF colleagues now face a massive task to rebuild the organisation's reputation.