Tom_Degun_Monte_Carlo_blogNot only did I realise I was completely out of place in the millionaires' playground that is Monaco (with my wallet just about stretching to a 15 euro cup of coffee) but I witnessed first-hand what is likely to be the most enticing of battles for the IAAF Presidency, a position currently occupied by Lamine Diack of Senegal.

Diack, who is now the ripe old age of 77, has been IAAF President since 1999 after he took over from Primo Nebiolo of Italy, the only IAAF President to die in office.

Diack, who had previously indicated he had entered his last four-year term as IAAF President when he was re elected in 2007, has backtracked on the decision, telling insidethegames earlier this year that he will he now stand for the position once again in Daegu next year.

This means the battle to replace the Senegalese is likely to be put on hold for at least a few more years with the two obvious candidates to replace Diack widely expected to be London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe of Britain and influential International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Sergey Bubka of the Ukraine.

Morocco's Nawal El Moutawakel, the 1984 Olympic 400 metres hurdles gold medallist, is another who cannot be ruled out - in a move that would make her the organisation's first female President - but she is thought to have greater ambitions in the IOC having already served as chair of Evaluation Commissions for the selection of the host city for the Summer Olympics in 2012 and 2016.

Therefore, it would be a very wise bet to put money on either Coe or Bubka succeeding Diack to the most powerful position in world athletics.

Although either, or even both, could actually run against Diack, the two are reluctant to take on the incumbent who almost certainly has a maximum of four years left in office should - or more likely when - he retains his position.

Diack, who will be 78 by the time the election comes around, is thought to be a contender to become the President of Senegal in the near future in a move that would obviously see him vacate his role at the IAAF.

Diack too, is not thought not to be in the best of health and although he looked in good spirits in Monte Carlo, making many amusing comments in his various press conferences, a busy schedule that involves him flying around the world on a very regular basis would take its toll on anyone, let alone someone approaching their 80th birthday.

And when Diack reaches that landmark on June 7, 2013, he will also lose his IOC membership - which he has because of the fact he is IAAF President - because of new regulations that state any IOC member ceases to be a member at the end of the calendar year during which they reach the age of 80.

Diack may decide to see out his IAAF four-year term until 2015 but having lost his IOC membership, he may well decide to resign in 2013, a decision which would certainly put the cat among the pigeons and one that is already likely to have Coe and Bubka on red alert.

The reason for this is that whoever is IAAF senior vice-president in 2013 could well hold the trump card.

Bubka, the 1988 Olympic pole vault champion and world record holder, is currently the senior IAAF vice-president while Coe, who was no bad athlete himself as the only person to win Olympic title in the 1500 metre event in two consecutive Olympics, is currently one of three IAAF vice-presidents.

The IAAF senior vice-president is the position awarded to the vice-president who receives the most votes during the election period and it is not perhaps surprising that Bubka currently holds the position ahead of Coe.

After all, Bubka became an IAAF member two years before Coe did - in 2001 - and it is therefore logical that he became IAAF senior vice-president before the Englishman. Coe's first election as IAAF vice-president was in 2007, so he was also behind Bubka in that respect.

But whoever is elected senior vice-president next year, when the vote could really go down to the wire, will certainly be smiling.


Because if Diack does decide to step down as IAAF President before his four-year term ends, the senior vice-president becomes acting IAAF President.

Yes, they are only the acting President and they must still be officially elected but few would deny that being the acting President is a hell of a good place from which to launch a campaign for the role on a permanent basis. A far better place than outside the office anyway.

It may also be telling that when Nebiolo died in office in 1999, Diack was senior vice-president. He stepped up to Nebiolo's role on an "acting" basis and unsurprisingly is still in the role - obviously on a permanent basis - 11 years on.

The thing about Coe and Bubka is I find them to be remarkably similar. Not in terms of appearance or in accent, in which they could not be more different, but in terms of how they make you fully believe in what they say. Speak directly to either of them, and it is not hard to realise why they are two of the greatest athletes ever to compete such is the conviction of their comments and the evident steeliness behind their eyes.

Both too, are clearly extremely intelligent with a clear knack of obtaining powerful positions - which explains why both have such outstanding CVs. Few know what is truly going on in their brilliant minds, but one might hazard a guess.

When I asked Coe in Monte Carlo about his IAAF ambitions in the election next year, he responded: "I haven't given it a huge deal of thought as I am a little preoccupied with organising an Olympics and Paralympics in London in 2012!"

A very fair and humorous point and I would expect no less from the politician who is so adept at not giving his true thoughts away.

But one would have to be very naïve to think that the brilliant Coe, the key reason why London won and will almost certainly host an outstanding the Games, does not have at least one eye on his plans after 2012. The IAAF Presidency seems to me like a logical step for a man such as Coe and it will be an additional bonus for him that it carries with it IOC membership. Many IOC members are thought to want the popular Coe in their exclusive club and the IAAF Presidency seems by far his easiest route in.

Meanwhile a similarly great politician such as Bubka, who already holds an IOC position, must also want the job one day too.

I admit that I know Bubka less than I do Coe but we met briefly at the Singapore Summer Youth Olympics in August earlier this year and I was one of four journalists holding a voice recorder to his mouth when he came out with the now famous comments about the London 2012 Olympic Stadium having to retain the athletics track that they "promised" they would.

I had been pestering Bubka to give me the comments about London most of the week and my colleagues and I were very surprised when he came out with what he did. We thought he would say next to nothing so we were a little shocked with both what he said and with how passionately he said it.

He looked me directly in the eyes during most of his words and I could see him visibly shaking. He may be a brilliant politician who makes you believe his every word but I assure you that he threw an unusual amount of force behind his comments on Saturday afternoon.

For that reason, I must disagree with Hugh Robertson, who I know told insidethegames that Bubka is "playing politics". I understand that the Sport and Olympics Minister may have seen his words as an attack on Coe in the battle for IAAF Presidency - as many I have spoken to have suggested. However, had Robertson been there in person, he may have felt differently as I and my colleagues did.

At the IAAF dinner which ended the show in Monte Carlo, I was on my way out at the end of the night when I saw Bubka standing near the door. I walked over simply to shake his hand and wish him a safe journey home.

I turned to leave when he said in his strong but very coherent Ukrainian accent: "My words to you about the London track were okay?"

"Yes," I responded. "Very good and you caused a lot of headlines in England."

"I just spoke from the heart" he replied. I was inclined to agree with him.

Rather cheekily, and with a few glasses of wine down me, I then decided to ask him: "So you will be the next IAAF President, yes?"

His stare gave little away as he responded: "I'm very happy where I am at the moment."

I didn't doubt that but a man such as Bubka, who has made a career of constantly being on top, is unlikely to want to be vice-president forever.

Anyway, he may well be happy as in the long-term race for Presidency, senior vice-presidency is perhaps pole position.

Rather ironic that all this took place in Monaco and literally overlooking perhaps the most famous Formula One race track on the planet.

They say in Monaco, pole position is key because on the narrow race track, it is near impossible to overtake the leader.

The race for IAAF Presidency may end up being just as fascinating as the legendary street race and in Daegu next year, when the IAAF unveil their President alongside their senior vice-president, we may well know who is in pole position.

Tom Degun is a reporter for insidethegames