Athletics maintains pole position as No.1 Olympic sport in emphatic style

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Tokyo Games figures show athletics more popular than anything else, but World Athletics President Seb Coe warns we shouldn’t rest on our laurels

In recent years, cycling, swimming and gymnastics have threatened the traditional supremacy of athletics as the largest and most popular Olympic sport. Triathlon, beach volleyball, surfing and skateboarding are also essential.

Track and field, however, remains the No.1 sport for the greatest spectacle in the world. World Athletics President Seb Coe said this was also not based on anecdotal evidence, but pure statistics.

“We had the most hours of broadcast in Tokyo by far ahead of any other Olympic sport with some 2.2 million hours,” he said in a year-end interview on Friday. .

“Athletics has had the highest number of press articles written about it – some 10,000 – compared to other sports,” he added. “We had the highest number of articles shared on social media, around 700 million, and that led to over 62 million social media conversations around athletics, as well as the highest number of video views on the IOC and Tokyo Olympic Games websites. and an application of over half a million.

These findings during the Games are linked to the study commissioned by the IOC from Publicis Sport & Entertainment (PSE), an independent agency that collected and consolidated data on sports and events from various third-party sources through a number of number of pre-established criteria. territories of all continents.

Coe admits he enjoys rubbing this when he’s in IOC circles or mingling with people from other sports governing bodies. But he refuses to be complacent.

When asked if he thinks athletics might lose their pole position in recent years, or if they might stumble in the future, he replies, “Look, that’s actually not a bad trait. in life to be a little paranoid about everything. While I am President of World Athletics I intend to make our sport stronger, more globally representative and that every time we leave a championship we have data on what to think about.

“I say this with pride that we are the No.1 Olympic sport, but this is only a measure because there are other sports like basketball, which is an Olympic sport but if you see it in its professional event (it’s huge).

“So we have to recognize that there are other sports and there are other sports that we may not even be thinking about at the moment. I recently read a very interesting article that looked slightly to the future that there are some AI algorithms out there right now trying to figure out what the next sport might look like.

Coe said World Athletics plans to work on improving the sport’s popularity in 2022 and has a brilliant opportunity to make “an indelible mark” at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon.

The global governing body plans to do so via social media, but without neglecting the role of television. “We cannot underestimate the power of television,” says Coe.

There are also, he reveals, talks to produce a Netflix-like documentary series on athletics in a style similar to the Drive to survive Formula 1 shows and The last dance about the Chicago Bulls basketball team during the Michael Jordan era.

“EBU (European Broadcasting Union) talks about pretty creative stuff,” he says, “maybe even a documentary series on athletics – a similar genre to Netflix Drive to survive documentary that would allow (the cameras) to go behind the scenes and allow us to access new audiences that might not naturally gravitate towards our sport in the same way that Formula 1 has been dramatically affected by it. Likewise, European interest in basketball was sparked by The last dance. They are important vehicles and I think we should use them.

“We cannot rest on our laurels,” he continues. “And while it’s nice to be able to say that we are the No.1 Olympic sport, it can’t just become an academic conversation because the biggest challenge we have is probably not sport. These are other areas of activity where young people have a shorter concentration.

“What they consume in terms of content is much shorter (nowadays). If you talk to someone on a TV show, they’ll tell you that the average time most people prefer to watch a TV show is around 7-8 minutes. So this means that we have to be very clear that our benchmark is not just sport.

“If our business is sport, our profession is entertainment – and this should not be forgotten. And it’s not to give up what we celebrate as our sport. But we just have to recognize that we live in a very fast changing world and sport is only part of that in the lives of young people. And for some young people, it is less important than ever. And we have to make sure that we just move with those moments. “

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