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Sebastian Coe

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Coe
Lord Coe - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012 cropped.jpg
Lord Coe at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012.
Member of Parliament
for Falmouth and Camborne
In office
9 April 1992 – 2 May 1997
Preceded by David Mudd
Succeeded by Candy Atherton
Personal details
Born (1956-09-29) 29 September 1956
Chiswick, London, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) 1) Nicky McIrvine
(1990–2002; divorced);
4 children
2) Carole, Lady Coe
(formerly Annett née Smith);
(2011 to present)
Relations Peter Coe (father, deceased)
Children 4 children
Alma mater Loughborough University
Occupation Member of House of Lords, former Athlete and Sports administrator
Profession Politician
Religion Anglican
Sebastian Coe
Medal record
Competitor for  Great Britain
Men's Athletics
Olympic Games
Gold 1980 Moscow 1500 m
Gold 1984 Los Angeles 1500 m
Silver 1980 Moscow 800 m
Silver 1984 Los Angeles 800 m
European Athletics Championships
Bronze 1978 Prague 800 m
Silver 1982 Athens 800 m
Gold 1986 Stuttgart 800 m
Silver 1986 Stuttgart 1500 m

Sebastian Newbold Coe, Baron Coe, CH, KBE (born 29 September 1956), often known as Seb Coe, is a British politician and former athlete. As a middle-distance runner, Coe won four Olympic medals, including the 1500 metres gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1980 and 1984. He set eight outdoor and three indoor world records in middle-distance track events – including, in 1979, setting three world records in the space of 41 days – and the world record he set in the 800 metres in 1981 remained unbroken until 1997. Coe's rivalries with fellow Britons Steve Ovett and Steve Cram dominated middle-distance racing for much of the 1980s.

Following Coe's retirement from athletics, he was a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party from 1992–97, and became a Life Peer on 16 May 2000. He headed the successful London bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics and became chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. In 2007, he was also elected a vice-president of the International Association of Athletics Federations. On 25 August 2011, he was re-elected for another four-year term. In 2012, he was appointed Pro-Chancellor at Loughborough University where he had been an undergraduate, and is also a member of the University’s governing body, in November 2012 he was also appointed chairman of the British Olympic Association.

In 2012 he was of one of 24 athletes inducted as inaugural members of the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame.

Coe was presented with the Lifetime Achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in December 2012.


Coe was born at Chiswick, London. His mother, Tina Angela Lal, died in London, in 2005, aged 75. She was half- Indian, born to a Punjabi father, Sardari Lal, and an English mother, Vera (née Swan). His father, Peter Coe (né Percy N. Coe) died 9 August 2008, aged 88, while Coe was visiting Beijing.

Coe grew up in Warwickshire where he attended Bridgetown Primary School and Hugh Clopton Secondary School in Stratford-upon-Avon. The family then moved to Sheffield where he attended Tapton Secondary Modern School, Crosspool which became a Comprehensive School when he was there and Abbeydale Grange school. He joined athletics team Hallamshire Harriers at the age of 12, and soon became a middle-distance specialist, having been inspired by David Jackson, a geography teacher at Tapton School who was a runner. He was coached by his father and represented Loughborough University and later Haringey when not competing for his country. Coe studied Economics and Social History at Loughborough University and won his first major race in 1977—an 800-metre event at the European indoor championships in San Sebastián, Spain. It was at Loughborough University that he met athletics coach George Gandy, who had developed "revolutionary" conditioning exercises to improve Coe's running.

Athletic career

Sebastian Coe (#254) was the silver medallist in Men's 800m at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

He first ran against his great rival Steve Ovett in a schools cross country race in 1972. Neither won, nor did either win in their first major encounter in the European Championships Prague in 1978 in an 800 metre race, where Ovett (breaking Coe's UK record with a run of 1:44.09) was second and Coe finished third behind the East German Olaf Beyer. According to Pat Butcher, Coe's father and coach Peter Coe had encouraged him to run as fast as he could from the start. The early pace was indeed exceptionally fast: Coe ran 200 metres in 24.3 seconds, 400 metres in 49.32 seconds and 600 metres in 1:16.2: then he slowed down and finished third in 1:44.76. A few weeks later Coe was to reclaim the UK record, setting an all-comers' mark of 1:43.97 at Crystal Palace to rank him second in the world that year. In October 1978, Coe displayed impressive endurance for an 800m runner by winning a four-mile road-race in Ireland in 17:54, defeating Eamonn Coghlan (1983 World 5000m champion) and Mike McLeod (1984 Olympic 10000m silver medalist), and breaking Brendan Foster's course record of 18:05.

The next year, 1979, Coe set three world records in 41 days. He set his first world records in Oslo, Norway in the 800-metre (1:42.33) and the mile (3:48.95) and later broke the world 1500 metre record (3:32.03) in Zurich, Switzerland, becoming the first person to hold all three records at the same time. He easily won the 800m at the European Cup in Turin in August, covering the last 200m in 24.1 and anchored the British 4 x 400m relay team with the fastest split of the quartet, 45.5. He remained undefeated at all distances that year, was voted "athlete of the year" by Athletics Weekly and Track and Field News and was ranked number one in the world at 800m and 1500m: no other athlete since has ranked number one at these distances in the same year.

In 1980 Coe broke Rick Wohlhuter's world record for 1,000-metres with a time of 2:13.40 and held all four middle distance world records simultaneously, the 800m, 1000m, 1500m and the mile, for one hour until Ovett broke his mile record, another unique feat. In the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, Ovett and Coe won each other's speciality; Ovett the 800 metres, and Coe the 1500 metres (Coe came in second in the 800 after running what he described as "the worst tactical race of my life", while Ovett took third in the 1500). It was Ovett's first defeat at either one mile or 1500 metres in three years and 45 races, and Coe covered the last 400 m in 52.2 and the last 100 m in 12.1 seconds, the fastest ever finish at this distance.

1981 started off in February with an indoor world record over 800 m at Cosford, time 1:46.0. His world record in the 800 metre race in Florence on 10 June: his 1:41.73 in the 800 metres remained unbeaten until August 1997. As of 2010, this still stands as the UK record and makes him the third fastest man ever. A month afterwards he set another record with 2:12.18 for 1000 m, which was to last 19 years and to this day has only been bettered once. Coe was more than 1.7 seconds (about 14 m in distance) faster than anyone on record at both distances. Between these two record breaking runs he won the Europa Cup 800 m semi-final, running the last 100 m in 11.3 (the fastest ever recorded in a major international race), and achieved a personal best of 3:31.95 in the 1500 metres, despite dreadful pace making in the initial stages. In August he won the gold medal at the European Cup final, before going on to better the standard for the mile twice; first with a 3:48.53 in Zürich and then with a 3:47.33 in Brussels, either side of Ovett's world record in Koblenz (3:48.40).

He ended a remarkable season with gold over 800m at the World Cup in Rome in September, and remained undefeated in both the 1500 metres/mile and the 800 metres for the entire season, as in 1979. Track & Field News and Athletics Weekly magazines voted Coe Athlete of the Year, an honour he had also won in 1979. Although he had a short season in 1982 because of injuries in June and July, Coe still managed to rank number one in the world in the 800 metres and to participate in a world record 4 x 800 metres relay in which Coe, Peter Elliott, Garry Cook and Steve Cram's time of 7:03.89, was to remain the world record for 24 years. Coe's leg was the fastest of the day, a solo 1:44.01. He unexpectedly won only silver in the 800 m in the 1982 European Championships in Athletics in Athens. The next day British team doctors revealed that Coe had been suffering from glandular fever. He decided to withdraw from the 1500 metres in those European Championships.

1983 began with world indoor records in the 800 metres in Cosford, England (1:44.91, breaking his own 1981 1:46.0) and the 1,000 metres (2:18.58) in Oslo but Coe spent much of that year battling health problems, including a prolonged bout with toxoplasmosis. He missed the inaugural IAAF World Championships in Athletics. The disease was severe and he spent several months in and out of hospital. He returned to competing in 1984 and was selected for 800 and 1500 metres at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, despite being narrowly beaten by Peter Elliott in the AAA Championships. In the 800 metres he took silver behind Joaquim Cruz of Brazil, but in the 1500 metres he took gold with an Olympic record of 3:32.53. His last 800 m was run in 1:49.8, his last lap 53.2 and his last 100 m in 12.7. He remains the only person to win successive Olympic 1500 metre titles.

"On the day there was only one man and on the day Seb Coe was that man".
—Steve Cram, 1984

Coe had planned to have a somewhat quiet season in 1985, partly because of the intensity of the previous year's efforts to get himself ready in time for the Olympics, as well as a planned move up to 5000m, which never materialised. He suffered a recurrence of a back problem which had plagued him on and off since 1980, causing him to miss several weeks of training mid season. Despite this he managed to set some fast times towards the end of the season, but was to lose his Mile world record to Cram, who beat him in Oslo. In 1986 Coe won the gold medal over 800 m at the European Championships in Stuttgart, beating Tom McKean and Cram. with a stunning last 200 m of 24.7. It was his only 800 m title at an international championship. He won the silver in the 1500 metres, behind Cram, after running a bad tactical race, and set a personal best over 1500 m with a 3:29.77 min performance in Rieti, Italy, becoming the fourth man in history to break 3:30 for the 1500 m. For the fourth year in his career (1979, 1981, 1982 & 1986), he was ranked No. 1 in the world in the 800 metres and was in the top two for 1500 metres for the 5th time.

He was injured in May 1987 after winning an 800m for his club, Haringey, and was out for the entire season. The following year he wasn't selected for the British 1988 Olympic Games team, when he failed to qualify from the heats of the 1500m at the Trials in Birmingham. He had shown good early season form, but after a spell of altitude training he picked up a chest infection. The Daily Mirror ran a campaign and the president of the International Olympic Committee, Juan Antonio Samaranch, unsuccessfully tried to have the rules changed in Coe's favour. It was said that the Indian team was willing to include him on account of his mother's parentage.

Coe had one final good season in 1989, when, at age 33, he won the 1500 m AAA title, was ranked British Number 1 over both 800 m and 1500 m, ran the second fastest 800 m of the year (1:43.38) and won the silver medal at the World Cup over 1500 m. He retired from competitive athletics in early 1990, after having to bow out at the Auckland Commonwealth Games with yet another chest infection. He ended his career with eight different seasons of sub 1:44 800 metre times.

Trinity College's Great Court Run

One scene in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire recreates a race in which the runners attempt to round the perimeter of the Great Court at Trinity College, Cambridge in the time it takes the clock to double strike the hour at midday or midnight. Many have tried to run the 367 metres (401 yards) around the court in the 43.6 seconds that it takes to strike 12 o'clock. Known as the Great Court Run, students traditionally attempt to complete the circuit on the evening of the matriculation dinner. The only persons recognised to have actually completed the run in time are David Cecil in 1927 and Sam Dobin in 2007. It was thought that Coe had succeeded when he beat Steve Cram in a charity race in October 1988 in a time of 42.53 seconds. A video of the race, however, apparently shows that Coe was 12 metres short of the finish line when the last chime sounded, which is why Trinity College never officially accepted his time.

Political career

Coe was elected as Member of Parliament for Falmouth and Camborne in 1992, for the Conservative Party, but lost his seat in the 1997 general election. He returned to politics for a short time as Leader of the Opposition William Hague's chief of staff, having accepted the offer of a Life Peerage on 16 May 2000. During this time he tried his hand at a marathon, running a time of 2 hours and 58 minutes.

Sports Administration career

London 2012 Olympic Games

Coe and South African runner Oscar Pistorius at an International Paralympic Day event at Trafalgar Square on 8 September 2011

When London announced its bid to hold the 2012 Olympics, Coe became an ambassador for the effort and a member of the board of the bid company. With the May 2004 resignation of chairman Barbara Cassani, Coe became the chairman for the latter phase of the bid. As Coe was a well-known personality in Olympic sport, it was felt he was better suited to the political schmoozing needed to secure the IOC's backing. Coe's presentation at the critical IOC meeting in July 2005 was viewed by commentators as being particularly effective, and the bid won the IOC's blessing on 6 July.

Coe was instrumental in asking Queen Elizabeth II to star in Happy and Glorious a short film featuring James Bond which formed part of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony. The director of the ceremony, Danny Boyle first pitched the idea to Coe, who loved it so much that he took it to Edward Young, Deputy Private Secretary to the Queen. A friend of Coe's from their days of advising William Hague, Young "listened sagely, laughed, and promised to ask the Boss". Word soon came back to Coe that she would love to take part. Coe has said that London 2012 is not only about five weeks of summer sport but about encouraging more people to take up sport at all levels of competition. Coe is the Patron of the British Dragon Boat Racing Association (BDA).


Coe was appointed the first chairman of FIFA's independent watchdog, FIFA's ethics commission. The commission will judge all cases alleging conflicts of interest and breaches of Fifa rules. FIFA president Sepp Blatter made the announcement in Zurich on 15 September 2006 and said: "It is perhaps a surprise but it has been very well received. We have found an outstanding personality in the world of sport, a great personality in the Olympic movement." His appointment makes him one of the most senior Englishmen to work for FIFA.

He stood down from this post to join the English committee that failed to bring the 2018 World Cup to England (with Russia chosen to host instead).

British Olympic Association

Following the London Olympics, Coe was appointed as Chairman of the British Olympic Association replacing Lord Moynihan

Personal life

In 1990, when resident in Surrey, Coe married Nicky McIrvine, a former Badminton three-day-event champion, with whom he has two sons and two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce in 2002 after twelve years and Coe moved out of the family home.

In 2003, Coe began a relationship with Carole Annett, The couple wed in 2011.

Coe is a worldwide ambassador for Nike and owns a string of health clubs with a membership of over 20,000. He is a member of the East India Club, a private Gentlemen's Club in St James's Square. He has supported London athletic events like the London 10K of Nike and the British 10K charity race. On 12 February 2010, Coe was the 19th runner on the 106th day of the Vancouver Olympic Torch Relay. Coe's leg was along the Stanley Park Seawall, and he exchanged a "torch kiss" with the previous runner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the next runner, a 19-year old member of the Squamish community.

Coe was featured in an episode of the BBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are?, which showed he is descended from Jamaican sugar farmers and slave owners, George Clarke, Lieutenant Governor of New York Colony, and Edward Hyde of Norbury.

Coe has been the presenter for The Asian Awards since 2010 and is due to present them again on 16 April 2013 in London.

Coe is colour blind.


Coe was made an Honorary Doctor of Technology ( Hon DTech) by his alma mater, Loughborough University in 1985. In November 2009, he was awarded an honorary degree as Doctor of Science (Hon DSc) from the University of East London. He also received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Sunderland in 2011.

He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1982 and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1990. On 16 May 2000, he was created a Life Peer as Baron Coe, of Ranmore in the County of Surrey. He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) in the 2006 New Year Honours for services to sport. He was presented with the first Prince of Asturias Award (Sports category) in 1987. After his work in delivering London 2012 Coe was presented with an Olympic Order. In the 2013 New Year Honours, Coe was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) for services to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Coe received another lifetime achievement award at the Laureus World Sport Awards.

Coe has also received three separate awards at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony: The main individual award in 1979, a " Special Gold Award" in 2005 and the " Lifetime Achievement Award" in 2012.

Personal bests

Distance Mark Date
400 m 46.87 1979 & 45.5 relay leg (1979)
800 m 1:41.73 1981
1000 m 2:12.18 1981
1500 m 3:29.77 1986
Mile 3:47.33 1981
2000 m 4:58.84 1982
3000 m 7:54.32 1986
5000 m 14:06.2 1980

Styles and honours

  • Mr Sebastian Coe MBE (1982–1990)
  • Mr Sebastian Coe OBE (1990–1992)
  • Mr Sebastian Coe OBE MP (1992–1997)
  • Mr Sebastian Coe OBE (1997–2000)
  • The Rt Hon The Lord Coe OBE (2000–2006)
  • The Rt Hon The Lord Coe KBE (2006–2012)
  • The Rt Hon The Lord Coe CH KBE (2012–present)
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