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Netflix series will showcase unique global appeal of athletics, says Coe

Track and field’s own Netflix series, focusing on sprinters and due to be aired ahead of the Paris Olympics this summer, will reveal the global appeal of the sport to a wider audience, according to Sebastian Coe.

Athletics as a sport has found itself, at times, struggling against the multitude of other sports and activities on offer.

Netflix series showcasing Formula One, golf and tennis have proved very popular and World Athletics president Coe is hoping the six episodes based around sprinting, with last year’s world championships in Budapest as the backdrop, will have the same effect.

“It was really interesting when I spoke to the Netflix guys,” Coe said in Nassau ahead of the World Athletics Relays.

“The thing that really surprised them (is) when you go to a world championships and on the first day you’re celebrating gold medals from Dominica and Ecuador, you know that you are in a truly global sport.”

The Budapest worlds saw athletes from 46 countries win medals, while athletes from 75 countries secured top-eight places — and some countries for the very first time.

“There’s no sport on the planet that can claim that,” Coe said.

Winning a track and field medal, he argued, was “statistically tougher to win than in any other sport. And that’s why everything we do is to promote the cause and give them great exposure”.

It is fair to say athletics has missed the presence of a big-name pull and crowd pleaser like Jamaican Usain Bolt, whose performances and charisma guaranteed maximum exposure and packed stands wherever he opted to compete.

Telling a story

The first name off anyone’s lips at the moment is Noah Lyles, the American who claimed treble world gold at Budapest and one of the stars of the Netflix production.

“I’m pretty excited,” Lyles said. “I’d say more than showing a personality, I love telling a story. Looking at 2023 it’s probably my best written story so far.

“And then seeing how competitive it was throughout the whole process, nobody really showing that they were going to back down just because a 200m guy said they were going to come down to 100m I think makes it even more entertaining.”

Italy’s Olympic champion Marcell Jacobs, recently relocated to the United States with a new coach in Rana Reider in his bid for a successful defence of the blue riband title, said the series offered up an invaluable insight.

“People can understand 100% that it’s just not one race,” he said. “We have our lives off the track.

“I think it’s really important that people see how much hard work we do every day for 365 days in one year.

“It’s a great opportunity for us in track and field.”

Lyles said the series would “tell amazing stories, not just from my point of view, but it’s going to show up from every athletes’ point of view”.

“They do a very good job of showing personality and not just the star but from the bottom to the top.”

Coe said the series would also showcase the “extraordinary jaw-dropping talent that is in our sport, the diversity of the sport, the inclusive nature of it and just the global footprint”.

But that showcasing did not come without risks.

“Our athletes are unique,” the 67-year-old Briton said.

“They have transferable skills, which means that there are challenges keeping them in the sport, there are other sports they can go off and do.

“I’m acutely conscious that when I’m at a trackside here… there are as many recruiters from basketball and NFL (American Footbal) looking at the talent on display. It’s more transferable than any other sport.”

Coe, with plans already under foot for a second series using the Paris Olympics as a backdrop, added: “I think it’s going to blow people away just with the quality of what we have on display and it’s the beginning of the journey.

“I’m just really hoping that Netflix will at least lift the lid on that talent a little bit and get people to recognise just what we’re dealing with, it’s unbelievable.”

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