International Athletics Federation (IAAF) President Sebastian Coe says that India has the capability to host big ticket track and field events and he would love to see the prestigious Diamond League Meeting being held in the country in near future.
Coe, who was in India early this year for his first visit to a member federation after taking over as IAAF chief, said that the athletics events of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games was a huge success and it showed that the country can host big international meets.
"Yes, India can host big events because India staged the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The athletics programme in the 2010 CWG was held in a world-class stadium and it was delivered in front of full houses virtually every session," Coe said.
"I know it is possible. New Delhi also hosted the World Half Marathon Championships way back in 2004 and it was hugely successful. So, I am sure India is well capable of hosting big international events," Coe said when his opinion was sought on India's capability to hold IAAF events, including Diamond League Meetings.
"I want to see IAAF events coming to India. It's important IAAF increases its global footprint, particularly for our big one-day athletics events (like Diamond League Meetings). Asia, including India, is an important market. That will be where our focus is. I would love to have a Diamond League event in India one day," he added.
Explaining the requirements for an event of the scale of a Diamond League Meeting to take place, Coe said, "It depends on the ability (of a country) to pull off various things together.
We need a clear criteria what constitutes a Diamond League event is. It could be about crowd, it could be about infrastructure, it could be about local partnership, it could be about broadcast.
"So, it is about pulling all these things together. We have two Diamond League Meetings in Asia -- Shanghai and Qatar legs. We are having a new Diamond League event in Africa in Rabat (Morocco). Qatar has done very successfully so does Shanghai. So these (two) can be used as benchmarks," said the 60-year-old Coe, a gold medallist in 1500m in both 1980 and 1984 Olympics.
Coe also revealed that the world athletics body will collaborate with the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) to start an ambitious coaching programme from next year to produce a large number of coaches by introducing IAAF certified Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 courses in the country.
India has severe shortage of IAAF certified coaches and the programme is sure to give a boost in producing world-class trainers in large numbers.
India has just around 30 coaches who have passed IAAF's Level 1 course while there are just a couple of them who have passed IAAF Level 2 course.
"Coaching is absolutely crucial in terms of developing athletics. It's really important India develops a framework of world class coaches. I think they (India) recognise that.
The IAAF is helping India to introduce what we call Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 courses. India can develop their own pool of coaches, can start their journey from that lower level to elite level coaches," Coe said.
"Also we are working on modules prepared by the IAAF with close collaboration with the SAI. We signed an MoU and our focus is around the Center of Excellence in New Delhi. The AFI led Adille Sumariwalla has been doing a good job in trying to gain attraction and interest for track and field events in India which has not always had the strongest foundations."
AFI president Adille Sumariwalla, who sits at the powerful IAAF's ruling council, confirmed that the IAAF will send qualified coach and trainers in February to conduct courses at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala and two other regional centers in Kolkata and Bengaluru.
"The IAAF people will train around 25 Indian master trainers who in turn will train other fellow Indian coaches. We are hoping that at least 200 Indian coaches will be IAAF certified by the end of 2017," Sumariwalla said.
So far, there is no facility for Level 2 and Level 3 courses in India and one has to go to the regional IAAF center in Jakrata to pursue these courses.
Coe also said that the IAAF will support initiatives like Asia-Pacific Athletics Circuit which has been proposed two years back.
"It is important to look at the timing and scheduling of the athletics events. I know conversations have been already taking place between Oceania and Asian federations about how we can extend the season or may be even combine some other competitions so there is more seamless move from the Oceania programme in February-March into the early elements of the season in Asia.
"So, we might be looking at the way our Diamond League Meetings are staged, also making sure that what we do is making relevant in the whole course of the year and Asia can help just do that.
"Of course, we will support area and member federation initiatives to do what we can to extend the season and make it relevant throughout the months of the year."
Coe said that India need to have a robust programme to educate the athletes about doping as he felt that many dope positive cases in the country were due mostly to consumption of low level local synthetic drugs available over the counter.
"Doping is a global issue and it is not related to one particular country, so we need to see this in a global way. What is fundamental is that you need to have robust systems in place and we also need to have education programme.
In modern sport we need to challenge athletes to do what they need to do cleanly and with integrity. That is best delivered through education programmes.
"Let me make this point that before Adille (Sumariwalla) became president of AFI, there were only about 100 dope tests conducted a year in Indian athletics. Now it is over a thousand and if you have a more intensive programme of testing you inevitably are going to catch more athletes (of doping).
"As I discussed with AFI officials, the vast majority of drugs caught as being used by Indian athletes are not sophisticated drugs. They are mostly low level, local synthetic drugs available over the counter of chemists.
So I restate the importance of education programme. Education is key in dealing with this issue. I think AFI is actually making a very good effort to introduce education programmes and to increase the number of testing in a much more robust environment."