Sebastian Coe is one of the great names of British sport. A holder of four Olympic medals and eight outdoor and three indoor world records, he dominated middle distance running for much of the 1980s. His easy and rhythmic running style made him one of the most popular athletes to watch.
Coe began his running career at 12 when he joined Sheffield's Hallamshire Harriers in the North of England. In between his school studies, he went on to win county and English schools championships at 3000 metres, 1500 metres and in cross-country.
His annus mirabilis came in 1979 when, in the space of 41 days, he sensationally broke three world records – the 800 metres and the Mile records fell in Oslo and he then broke the 1500 metres mark in Zurich, making him the first man in more than 50 years to achieve world records at both 800 and 1500. The following July, Coe added the 1000 metres record in Oslo to give him, for a brief period, four simultaneous world records.
Coe’s rivalry with his British compatriot Steve Ovett dominated middle-distance running during those years and at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the showdown between the two provided some of the most memorable moments of the entire Games. Although Coe was favourite to win the 800 metres, he had to settle for second place behind Ovett. But he then bounced back with style to take gold in the 1500 metres, leaving Ovett trailing in third.
In 1981, Coe broke four further world records: the 800m in Florence, the 1000m in Oslo and the Mile (twice) in Zurich and Brussels respectively. His 800m mark of 1:41:73 was arguably the greatest performance of his athletic career as the record stood for a remarkable 16 years.
In the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Coe set an Olympic record in the 1500 metres to win his second gold medal and he also won his second silver medal in the 800 metres.
After retiring from competition in September 1989, Coe pursued a political career, becoming Conservative MP for Falmouth and Camborne in 1992, a Parliamentary Private Secretary in 1994 and a Government Whip in 1996. In 1997, he was appointed Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, William Hague, a role which ended following Hague’s defeat in the 2001 British General Election. As Lord Coe, he is now a member of the House of Lords.
Following the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to London, Coe, who had headed the London campaign, became chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, charged with overseeing the staging of the Games.