LONDON — They’ve won Olympic gold medals, set multiple world records, and collected world titles. Now, two track-and-field greats will compete against each other for the top job in the sport.
Former pole vault star Sergei Bubka of Ukraine declared his bid Wednesday for the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federations in a high-profile race against Sebastian Coe of Britain, the former middle-distance champion who announced his candidacy in November.
“I am seeking the IAAF presidency to give something back to the world of athletics which has given so many opportunities to me throughout my life,” Bubka said, confirming what had been widely expected for months.
Bubka and Coe are campaigning to succeed Senegal’s Lamine Diack, who steps down this year after serving as president since 1999. The election will be on Aug. 18 at the IAAF congress in Beijing on the eve of the world championships.
The campaign comes against a backdrop of drug scandals casting a shadow over the sport, including allegations of organized doping in Russia, and cheating among Kenya’s acclaimed distance and marathon runners.
“I wish to build upon the progress achieved by the IAAF under (Diack’s) leadership to ensure that the sport and its governing body are world-class, and an example to others with regard to governance, transparency and ethics,” Bubka said in a statement.
“We also need to provide greater grassroots support to inspire the next generation of athletes. We need to better engage with young people and build new audiences. And we need to ensure protection of clean sport.”
This is Bubka’s second bid for the leadership of a powerful international body. He was one of six candidates for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee in 2013, finishing fifth with four votes in the final round of the election won by Thomas Bach.
The 51-year-old Bubka has been an IAAF council member since 2001 and a vice president since 2007. He serves on the IOC executive board, and heads the Ukrainian Olympic Committee.
Bubka set 35 world records — indoors and out — and won six consecutive world titles during his career. He won gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. His outdoor record stood for 21 years until last February, when French vaulter Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16 meters (20 feet, 2 ½ inches) in the Ukrainian’s home city of Donetsk.
Bubka faces a formidable competitor in Coe, who boats a glittering record on and off the track.
The 58-year-old Coe, who is also an IAAF vice president, won the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. He set 12 world records in the 800, 1,500 and mile.
Coe headed the organizing committee of the 2012 London Olympics, and is the chairman of the British Olympic Association.
Coe launched his election platform in December, calling for an overhaul of the competition calendar, the creation of a global street circuit, and more efforts to engage with youth.