By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

May 27 - The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is not on the verge of bankruptcy but does face financial challenges, Lamine Diack has admitted on the eve of a vital meeting that could decide his future with support growing for Britain's Sebastian Coe to replace him.

Diack, who has been President of the IAAF since 1999, is facing increasing questions over the financial stability of the world governing body with Coe among those demanding answers.

Earlier this month, the London 2012 chairman and double Olympic 1500 metres champion told insidethegames "that the IAAF is an organisation that, we know, faces challenges, commercially, internally and externally".

The financial health of the IAAF will be top of the agenda when the ruling Council meets in Monte Carlo tomorrow.

Coe will miss the meeting because he is suffering from a chest infection but will still be closely involved in proceedings via a conference call.

Diack is confident that he can satisfy his critics, claiming that the IAAF has reserves of $79 million (£54 million), which he claims is enough for them to operate for two years without any more income.

Diack said: "I am optimistic about the future.

"We are facing a number of challenges and we have to do our best to come out on top, but I think we are in a good situation.

"At the highest level, what happened in Beijing [at the 2008 Olympics] and Berlin [at the 2009 World Championships] indicated that our sport is still number one in the Olympic Movement. 

"As a sport we need stars, and in Usain Bolt (pictured) we have one of the biggest stars, not just in athletics, but in all sports." 

The IAAF has been hit by the worldwide economic downturn, though, Diack admitted.

He said: "The crisis is making everything difficult and affects everyone.

"The dollar euro exchange has not been kind for operational costs and we have not been earning as much money on our reserves because the interest rates are so low.

"We will continue to invest in the development and promotion of our sport all over the world, but we will need to cut our expenses.

"We can’t spend more than our income, but we have a budget proposed by our Finance Committee which is then agreed by the Council - and these groups are made up of representatives from every IAAF area.

"However, with close to two years in reserves and increased income from Olympic revenues and the Diamond League, the situation is challenging but far from being a disaster."

After being re-elected for a second time in 2007, Diack had originally promised to step down when his present term ends in 2011.

But earlier this month he said that he will stand again after he claimed that he had been asked to do so by federations from around the world.

Yet insidethegames has discovered that there is growing support for Coe to succeed Diack.

Up to 35 countries in Europe are ready to throw their support behind Coe if he publicly declares that he will put himself forward for election at the IAAF Congress in Daegu next year.

The Briton also has strong support in Asia and the Americas.

Several other countries, meanwhile, are gathering support behind Ukraine's Sergey Bubka (pictured), the 1988 Olympic pole vault champion, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

He, though, is less likely to run against Diack then Coe.

Diack has also claimed that he is being pressurised to stand for the President of Senegal in the election there in 2012 and, if he were to be re-elected as head of world athletics and is then chosen to be President of Senegal, he has promised that he will stand down from his sports role and, as senior vice-president of the IAAF, Bubka would automatically take-over and complete Diack's term.

But Diack has nevertheless claimed he is ready to take on anyone who stands against him at the IAAF.

He said: "In Osaka I said my dream was to go in 2011.

"But many members of the IAAF and representatives of the Areas said I shouldn’t make this decision yet.

"They want me to complete some of the missions that I started - such as revamping the competition systems, and introducing athletics again for kids at schools, and I would also like to stay for the IAAF Centenary [in 2012], having been first elected to the IAAF in 1976.

"Especially now that there are questions about our financial security, I believe that it is important to remain in charge and steady the ship.

"I may face challenges for the post in 2011, but that’s normal.

"There were challengers in Paris in 2003 [when I was re-elected], and in Osaka.

"We will go to the IAAF Congress and the delegates will decide.

"If someone else runs and they win, they will be President.

"If Congress decides it’s time for me to step down I will take my rocking chair and play with my grandchildren."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected] 

Related stories
May 2010:
 Diack planning huge cuts at IAAF as he desperately clings to power
May 2010: Coe warns that IAAF faces a major crisis
May 2010: Coe IAAF Presidental hopes hit by Diack decision to stand again
August 2009: Coe and Bubka Presidential hopes could be dashed by Diack