The mastermind behind London’s successful Olympics, Lord Sebastian Coe, believes Newcastle and the North East can stage a successful Commonwealth Games – if the city decides to bid for the event.
Glasgow’s success in hosting the Games has prompted a fresh bout of talk from influential figures that Newcastle might consider a future bid for the multi-sports event, which drew hundreds of thousands of people to the Scottish city over 10 days last month.
In an exclusive interview, Lord Coe has supported any potential bid from the city and its neighbours, arguing that the region has the desire and the wherewithal to become a credible candidate.
Lord Coe will be in the North East next month to act as the official starter for the Great North Run, which will achieve a momentous milestone with its millionth finisher this year.
The half marathon has beaten the likes of New York and London to become the first organised mass participation run to achieve that – and stands as proof that the city is a capable and competent host.
And Lord Coe – who won and then oversaw the glittering success of London 2012 – believes that could potentially be translated into a bid for the Commonwealth Games. He would be a heavyweight ally.
“Absolutely it can. It is not unthinkable for Newcastle to be serious contenders to host the Commonwealth Games,” he said.
“Primarily the organisers of the Commonwealth Games want cities that understand the importance of sport and to make a success of it they need people that absolutely want to support and be part of the event.
“You can imagine the interest you would have from the people of the North East in being volunteers for an event like that.
“There also needs to be a political consensus on it. You would need bipartisan support for something like that but you could never accuse Newcastle and the North East of not investing in sport or believing in the potential of sport to make a difference to a city.
“The people of the North East have consistently illustrated that.
“I wouldn’t want people to run away with the idea that creating something as substantial as the Commonwealth Games is an easy initiative. Glasgow’s organisers will tell you they needed every second of their delivery period to make that a success.
“But would the city be a realistic candidate? Absolutely if they were serious about it.”
In a wide-ranging interview Lord Coe has paid tribute to the Great North Run organiser Brendan Foster for his vision in bringing running to the masses and also claimed that Gateshead is one of an elite list of cities that have had a “seismic” effect on international athletics.
He has also urged the Football Association not to abandon plans to bid for the World Cup in future years, claiming that they need to get people into positions of influence in a reformed FIFA to make a success of it in future years.
He believes that London 2012 reinforced the idea that Great Britain could host large-scale events, something that Glasgow proved in July.
“I think one of the legacies of London 2012 is that it has given us more confidence in our ability to do things like that,” he said.
“We should never have gone into a downward spiral on that in the first place in my opinion. We do deliver great events, it is only ourselves that doubt that.