As usual it is a great pleasure for me to be with you today as we celebrate the best athletes of the year, to look back on the year as a whole, the successes and challenges we have faced but it is also a special occasion for me as this will be my last Athlete of the Year conference before I hand over the baton as president of the IAAF to a successor.
Although we had no Olympics or World Championships in 2014, it would be impossible to talk of a “quiet year” because we in fact we organised a record number of competitions: five IAAF World Athletics Series events but also the first ever World Relays, and we also played a key role in the Youth Olympic Games with an innovative mixed relay event and, of course, there were also plenty of other top athletics events like the Commonwealth Games, the European Championships, the African Championships, the Asian Games… the list is long and impressive.
And then, of course, the IAAF is also working hard to ensure that our athletes are able to compete throughout the year with the different permit circuits headed by the IAAF Diamond League.
Yet we must never be relaxed about our place in the world of sports. With projects like the recent “World Series Renovation Workshop” we are working hard to make sure that our competition programmes continue to be relevant and reflect the fast changing world we live in. Attracting, and most importantly retaining, the young as both participant and spectator are essential if athletics and the whole Olympic movement are to keep their appeal.
We are also helping to shape, with the support of the influential athletics lobby in the IOC, the initiatives of the “20 – 20 Project” led by IOC president Thomas Bach. The continued evolution and reform of the Olympic movement is something that the IAAF needs to be closely involved in, because athletics will remain the heart and soul of the Olympic Games. We will work as a devoted partner to the IOC but at the same time maintain our independence and autonomy as an association.
I am also very pleased that the IAAF has now consolidated our commercial stability by extending the current agreement with our marketing partners Dentsu right up until 2029. I believe that the best present I can give my successor as president is the long-term financial security that such a deal provides. It is much easier to embark on a programme of change when the basics of financial security have been met.
I am also delighted to have signed a new convention with the Principality of Monaco which means that the IAAF Headquarters will be re-located in the coming months to custom-designed new offices which will be appropriate, not just to the status of our organisation but will allow the utmost efficiency of operation as well.
This financial and operation security is key as it allows us to invest in the most important part of the sport – our athletes and our member federations, to whom our entire development programme has been dedicated. I am proud not only to have insisted on the democratic route to governance, where my Council colleagues have been able to contribute fully to the strategy and operations of the IAAF in a routine manner.
I have also been proud that the IAAF anti-doping medical department was completely revamped since I took over as president and that the IAAF will continue to promote fair play and ethics, not only in the fight against doping, but against illegal betting and other threats to the integrity of sport.
And finally, I am very happy that the IAAF today is not only about elite sport but thanks to projects like the new “Athletics for a Better World” emphasises the human values of the sport of athletics. We want to use our power to make the world a better place and by making a considerable investment in new media – IAAF website, Facebook, YouTube, etc – to improve the appeal of athletics to young people. The future belongs to them so our priority is to ensure that we build emotional connections and that they see the IAAF and athletics as relevant and welcoming.
It has been an honour and a privilege to lead this great sporting institution as president but also to have been involved with the IAAF Council since 1976. Our sport has been completely transformed in my lifetime and I am delighted to be able to pass the baton now to my successor and to rest assured that athletics will continue to evolve and thrive.
Thank you for your attention.