IAAF pledges to leave “participation legacy” in all host cities

The International Association of Athletics Federations will require a commitment from all host cities of its major events that they invest in developing safe spaces for physical activities and encouraging participation among the general population, says IAAF chief executive Jon Ridgeon. 

Ridgeon used his opening keynote address on the second day of  the Sports Decisions Makers’ Summit in London to tell the audience that 23 per cent of adults and 81 per cent of adolescents (aged 11-17) globally were not meeting the World Health Organisation minimum recommendation for physical activity. He added that the IAAF, as the governing body for the world’s most popular participation sport, had a duty to help change this.

“No city should ever stage any of our events without creating a better sporting future for those communities,” said Ridgeon. “We want to create a legacy in the cities that host our major championship events, we want to get a commitment from cities that they will create more spaces for people to run and walk after the IAAF goes.

“Sport has never been more relevant, but young people need to see the value in sport, and governments need to invest in safe spaces and clean, unpolluted air.

“Millions of dollars are spent worldwide on campaigns to encourage people to eat more healthily and take more exercise, but what if we invested that in creating safer, cleaner spaces for people to run in? What if we really incentivised participation, even in running and walking, which almost anyone can get involved with?”

He also wanted to see cities and governments invest more in sports initiatives in schools: “We need programmes that teachers want to teach, that can take place in any space in the world, and that children want to be involved in. Sport will rarely be a lifestyle choice for adults if they haven’t picked up the habit earlier in life.”

With the IAAF’s flagship Diamond League set for significant reforms from next year and an as-yet unnamed new competition format under development, Ridgeon said that the IAAF had an incredible opportunity to encourage global participation in sport, adding that as a truly global sport with elite athletes from all around the world, the body would be looking to create new events in territories such as Australia and Asia-Pacific. 

He added that the IAAF itself has “not done enough” to harness the power of its athletes as influencers.  “Athletes need to understand their responsibilities,” he said. “Athletics is most participatory sport in the world, and we need to do more to help people who just want to stay active. We’re working with UN and WHO to build engagement and encourage activity.”