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Sebastian Coe, back in what he describes as his "spiritual home town" of Zurich, where he broke world records for 1500 metres and the mile, has said the most important thing for athletics is to ensure the best competitors meet each other in both championships and other meetings.

The man now considered favourite to take over as the next President of the International Association of Athletics Federations next year, who had chatted briefly in the stands of the Letzigrund Stadium with another illustrious visitor, Usain Bolt, on Wednesday (August 13), said: "We have to get more young people to love athletics.

"I think, that's our great challenge major championships and great one-day meetings are a great tool to do that."

He made it clear that what the sport needed most were head-to-head meetings at both championships.

"My sons get up in the middle of the night to watch [Roger] Federer play against [Rafael] Nadal, or [Sebastian] Vettel race against [Lewis] Hamilton," said Coe, who has been speaking at the European Athletics Forum for Young Leaders in Sport being held here in accompaniment to the European Championships.

"Great duels are that extra something in sport."

There is, admittedly, a faintly ironic edge to Coe's statement given the relative infrequency with which he and his great rival of the time, Steve Ovett, met on the track.

Coe added that Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run under four minutes for the mile and a gold medallist at Berne in 1954 at the last European Championships to be held in Switzerland, was one of his great role models.

"He inspired every athlete of my generation," said Coe, who first broke the mile record in the 25th anniversary year of the Four Minute Mile.

"If it was not for him, an Australian would have become the first human to run the mile in less than four minutes.

"That would have been hard to swallow for us British.

"Without Roger, the history of the mile would be less British. I always call him the Senior Partner of all great British runners.

"We all look up to him."

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