Usain Bolt is a genius and has had as big an impact on athletics as Muhammad Ali did on boxing, says Lord Coe.
Sprint legend Bolt, an eight-time Olympic gold medallist, is set to retire after the World Championships in London, which begin on Friday.
Coe likened the Jamaican to former world heavyweight champion and one of sport’s most iconic figures Ali.
“He is the best sprinter of all time,” said Coe, who is president of the sport’s world governing body the IAAF.
“Usain Bolt is a genius. I can’t think, other than Muhammad Ali, of anybody that has so had an impact inside or beyond their sport.
“You can have the Friday-night-in-the-pub conversations about who is best footballer or tennis player, but there is no argument about this guy in sprinting”.
The 30-year-old Jamaican won the 100m, 200m and 4x100m gold at the past three Olympic Games – Beijing 2008, London 2012 and Rio 2016.
However, his unprecedented ‘triple triple’ of nine gold medals was downgraded to eight after Jamaican team-mate Nesta Carter, part of the quartet who won the 4x100m in Beijing, tested positive for a banned substance. Carter has appealed against the decision.
Bolt is also an 11-time World Championship gold medallist, and has won the 100m title three times.
“What we will miss is the personality,” Coe added. “We do want athletes with personality.
“It’s nice to have someone who has a view and fills the room and fills a stadium. You are not going to replace Muhammad Ali, but great athletes come along.”
Coe, who won Olympic 1500m gold in 1980 and 1984, said it would be “virtuous” for both Jamaica and global athletics to keep Bolt involved in the sport after his retirement.
Russia remains banned from competition
Meanwhile, the IAAF has voted unanimously to maintain Russia’s ban from international track and field competition as there are still issues that need to be resolved regarding the country’s anti-doping fight.
Russia was accused in a World Anti-Doping Agency report last year of widespread state-sponsored doping. Its athletics team was barred from last summer’s Rio Olympics and will also miss the World Championships.
“Material progress has been made but there are still issues that need to be resolved,” said Rune Andersen, independent chairman of the IAAF taskforce looking into doping in Russia.
“I can confirm that our impression is that they really want to meet all the criteria that has been set.
“The main issue is that no meaningful testing is being conducted.”
Andersen said the Russian anti-doping agency is still not code-compliant and that Russian authorities must acknowledge the outcome of the McLaren report. into doping in the country.
“It’s difficult to get an excuse, but we need some sort of an explanation on how they deal with this report in the most effective way,” he added.
Andersen also stuck with the timeline of a Russian return to international action in November.