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Speaker dinner: Lord Coe – 8th November 2010

Nov 08, 2010


1956: Born, 29 September

1979: Broke three world records in 41 days

1980: 1500m Olympic gold, 800m silver

1984: 1500m Olympic gold, 800m silver

1991: Awarded OBE

1992-1997: Tory MP for Falmouth and Camborne

1997: Private Secretary to Tory leader William Hague

May 2004: Appointed London's 2012 bid leader

December 2005: Awarded KBE


Lord Coe, who becomes a KBE in the New Year Honours List, won his greatest ever race by bringing the 2012 Olympics to London. He may have won two Olympic golds and smashed 12 world records, but Coe's achievement in leading London to victory eclipsed them all. "This is almost entirely on a different planet to winning the gold medals," Coe said.

His jubilation was understandable as it was his leadership which helped London claim sport's biggest prize. The London bid was initially way off the pace and when the five candidate cities were shortlisted, London was rated third behind Madrid and favourites Paris. But with the timing that he showed so often in an illustrious running career, Coe helped London produce the late charge which saw them pip their French rivals.

He joined London's team as one of three vice-chairmen two years ago but by May 2004 he was in charge – taking over from American businesswoman Barbara Cassani.‘ Seb has done a fantastic job and made every single effort to make sure we couldn't turn round and say we hadn't done this or that.’ Steve Cram

His CV was perfect for the job. Not only did he have the profile but his knowledge of sporting politics gave him massive influence with those who would decide London's fate. Coe had been a member of various British sporting committees as well as winning a place on the ruling council of athletics' governing body, the IAAF. And with quiet determination, Coe began to turn the fortunes of London's bid around.

"I felt our natural instinct was to make our strategy based around sport and getting more young people involved both domestically and internationally," he said.

"I decided this was what really spoke about us most loudly as a nation and it is far easier to follow a campaign that you believe in."

Coe got Britain's sporting stars to give their support to the bid. With a unity of purpose and an inspiring vision, London started to make inroads.Emphasis was made on the legacy of the Games for London and Britain, as well as trying to address concerns over the capital's transport system. The use of stars such as David Beckham, Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave gave the bid an air of authority that was hard to ignore. With sporting figures, politicians and the public lending support, the IOC's evaluation commission gave a glowing report after their visit to London in February and the race was well and truly on.

Coe campaigned tirelessly and by the time the world's focus turned to Singapore for the crucial vote on Wednesday, the London bid had incredible momentum.

But Coe saved his finest masterstroke for the closing moments when he delivered a very personal speech to IOC delegates during London's final presentation in Singapore. "When I was 12 years old I was marched into a large school hall with my classmates and we watched grainy pictures from the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games," he told the delegates. "Two athletes from our home town were competing. John Sherwood won a bronze medal in the 400m hurdles. His wife Sheila just narrowly missed gold in the long jump.

 "By the time I was back in my classroom, I knew what I wanted to do – and what I wanted to be. Thirty-five years on, I stand before you with those memories still fresh. Still inspired by this great movement." His speech, in the final moments of an incredibly close battle, turned the race in London's favour. BBC Radio Five Live's athletics correspondent John Rawling said: "His final speech was fantastic. It was statesmanlike. It was just a stunning performance – he touched every bullet point of the London bid.  If we win I'll carry the flame home, if we lose I'll carry the can Lord Coe 

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Nov 8, 2010
7:00 pm– 9:00 pm