Persuade six admired business leaders to speculate on the future of key sectors in which Haymarket operates, but direct that speculation five decades from now? Thanks to Sir Martin Sorrell, Lord Coe, Patrick le Quement, Tim Kelsey, Dianne Thompson and Sir Howard Bernstein, who consider the future of media, sport, motoring, medicine, management and the built environment. Not only did they accept our ridiculous brief, but, over the next 12 pages, they found a lot of visionary things to say, too.
MEDIA/ADVERTISING - Martin Sorrell
WPP Group's Sir Martin Sorrell talks to Caroline Marshall about the rise of Asia-Pacific, print media's battle with the internet, becoming carbon neutral and what's in store for Haymarket.
The advertising and marketing communications group WPP comprises more than 100 companies on the global communications stage. Last year, its 21st, saw revenues up 10 per cent to almost £5.9 billion and profit before tax up more than 14 per cent to £766 million.
But the reputation of its 62-year-old founder, Sir Martin Sorrell, is not just a function of size. It's because, in identifying the next big media issue, Sorrell has so often proved uncannily correct.Let's take a few examples ... Below the line rather than advertising was the original premise for WPP and, of course, it's grown faster. A few years ago, he was making a lot of noise about media inflation, then about media-neutral planning, then he talked a lot about PVRs. He forecast the most recent UK downturn, and even gave it an enduring descriptor: the bath-shaped recession.
So who better to speculate on what advertising and media, and Haymarket, might look like in 2057?
First, what kind of planning do you do? Five or ten years? Does WPP ever talk about the 50-year plan?
Our process is the three-year rolling plan and within that a strategic plan from which we agree annual budgets. But there are issues with a 50-year life, such as geography and techonolgy.
The geography issue is dominated by Asia-Pacific. Will that continue?
It's difficult for those of us in the West to comprehend the scale of Asia- Pacific's potential development over the next 50 years. Currently, only roughly 150 to 200 million Chinese of the 1.3 billion (the actual number may be as high as 1.5 billion) total can afford the goods that we are trying to market to them. However, this will change rapidly in the coming years.
We find that increasingly the marketing world is becoming two-paced, or even three-paced, geographically and functionally. Asia-Pacific, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Central and Eastern Europe are outpacing the US, and the US is outpacing Western Europe (perhaps with the exception of Spain). The internet and other new technologies are outpacing network television, newspapers and magazines.
You're considered something of a compulsive stayer-in-toucher, and famously addicted to your BlackBerry. How have your own media consumption habits changed over the past few years? Multiply this to the general population - what does this mean for our industry?
My own habits have changed dramatically. I read more dailies, less weeklies but I do surf weeklies' websites. I continuously stream websites such as CNBC and Bloomberg. I want news and analysis quickly. I watch more cable and satellite TV, less network. As Nicholas Negroponte is fond of saying, I have more ear time than eye time. I've been playing with my iPhone.
The truth is that decision-makers in media agencies and owners tend to be in their fifties and sixties; their sons and daughters and grandchildren are shifting to multi-tasking on the web, PVRs, iPods, video iPods, iPhones and so one. But many leading executives are in denial. They believe - or hope - that they won't have to tackle the changes on their watch.
You sound very media-literate for a 62-year-old. Can you programme your iPod?
Hmm, in a limited way.
What about media owners - which print owners in your view will dominate in the future because they have mastered the connection with the new internet platforms?
Rupert Murdoch, definitely, given his purchase of MySpace and other internet assets. Conde Nast too. And a wonderful Scandinavian company called Shibsted.
Was it a mistake on the part of print media owners to not charge for content on the web from the outset?
In their view, no. In my view, it was a mistake, yes. If you can't charge for content as strong as Vogue's, when can you? It's easier to take the consumer down in price rather than ask for more. But if you start at zero, you can't charge ten. Maybe the internet has permanently reduced traditional media owners' revenues and hence their profitability.
As we know, creative agencies have paid a very high price for ignoring media. What's the way forward over the next few decades there?
Media agencies have declared UDI and enjoy their independence. Just as you can't put toothpaste back in the tube, they will not report again to account, planning or creative management. The way forward is to house the media planners in the media agency, but with them continuing to be employed by the creative agency. We're also experimenting with the idea now of a creative agency being positioned within a digital agency.
Let's talk about carbon neutrality and the green debate: will others follow BSkyB and NewsCorp into carbon neutrality? Could WPP ever take such a position?
2007 will be seen as the year the world woke up to climate change. WPP has committed to becoming carbon neutral by the end of this year, to cut our carbon footprint by 20 per cent over the next four years and to continue to offset our remaining CO2 emissions.
Is climate change going to be a lasting business trend or an important fashion?
Three events in the last year or so have made sure it will continue to dominate. First, the deal between Warren Buffett and Bill Gates to absorb Microsoft stock into Berkshire Hathaway to enable the Gates Foundation to do greater charity work. Second, Richard Branson's decision to donate up to $3 billion in profits from his Virgin companies to good causes. Finally, the actions you mention by Rupert and James Murdoch, probably stimulated by Al Gore's film.
It will be an increasing imperative for companies to be responsible businesses and increasingly embarrassing for companies not to do so.
Finally, what's your view on Haymarket's future? How will Haymarket develop over the next five decades? Will we still be Heseltine-owned or will a 140-year-old Rupert Murdoch own us? Or Google?
Michael is one of the unique entrepreneurs. There are very few people who can found, run and develop a company as he's done. It's very much his empire and a fast-growing one at that. Haymarket, you'll know, faces the same challenges as we do: understanding the important of MySpace, and so on. Its independence seems to be a core value, whatever happens. For my money, the son or daughter of Rupert Heseltine will be in charge in 50 years' time.
- Caroline Marshall is the consultant editor of Haymarket Brand Media.
MEDICINE - Tim kelsey
Dr Foster Intelligence's Tim Kelsey talks to Colin Cooper about the future of the NHS, the rise of polyclinics, the demise of district hospitals and why we will all have dedicated life managers.
Tim Kelsey left Cambridge with a history degree in 1987. He became a Middle East reporter for The Independent and later a combat reporter in the first Gulf War for The Independent on Sunday. He went on to present and co-produce award-winning documentaries for Channel 4 and the BBC, before becoming news editor of The Sunday Times in 1998. He co-founded Dr Foster in 2000 with the mission of repatriating complex NHS data for the public good. The company's ethics committee, plus a research unit at Imperial College, has helped provide academic credibility. This, along with the company's pioneering attitude, flair for marketing and contacts at the Department of Health, helped convince the NHS to invest £12 million in the company in February 2006. The resulting joint venture, Dr Foster Intelligence, where Kelsey is chairman of the executive board, aims to speed up the development of information services in the health sector.
We are constantly hearing that the NHS is "on its knees". Will it still exist in 2057?
I don't think the NHS is on its knees today. There are real problems with variations in the quality of care but standards overall are demonstrably improving. I also believe that we will still have a publicly funded healthcare system in 50 years' time.
What will be the big differences?
In 2057, rationed resources will mean that the NHS will need to be far more targeted and proactive in managing people's wellness so that they use expensive hospitals and GPs less often.
The NHS and local government will share the same administrative infrastructure and will work together to profile local communities for their health risk and use direct marketing techniques, including tele-marketing, to intervene with the most needy.
We will receive a monthly "health" statement from the local authority telling us how much we have cost the local NHS and reminding us to take better care of ourselves, with incentives for improving health behaviour.
Can the NHS survive the burden of paying for expensive new treatments?
The market will find a way to make innovations affordable. I can see science achieving two important objectives by 2057: a cure for several cancers, including breast cancer, and a working therapy for Alzheimer's disease.
How is healthcare in the UK going to be affected by the growing number of private companies offering services?
The NHS was founded on the values of being accessible to all and free at the point of delivery. But in the 60s those values became confused with a view of the NHS as a bricks-and-mortar public sector institution. We have moved on - the modern NHS now wants, and needs, to work with the independent and voluntary sectors in a much more collaborative way. By 2057, I predict that the private and voluntary sector will actually manage more patients than the public sector, most of them at home or in community contexts. The values of the NHS will remain intact, and, as long as providers and carers meet set quality standards, nobody will mind whether their treatment is public or private.
It all sounds very complicated for the average patient. How will they know where to go and what to ask for?
Public services are already too complex for people to negotiate. What I see happening is the development of a case manager role. Each of us will have a dedicated adviser to guide us through our whole life experience with those major public services that are funded through national taxation. They will work a bit like mortgage brokers. I can even see a new industry growing up to provide this advice, which people will pay for or be subsidised to receive.
So how do you see the roles of health professionals and institutions changing over the next 50 years?
GP practices will become part of larger, more "industrial" facilities, like the polyclinics recently proposed for London. There will be fewer hospitals and the district general hospital will largely disappear, leaving a smaller number of bigger, more specialised hospitals. People will find this change very difficult to come to terms with because nobody likes hospital closures. But they will realise that fewer, better hospitals means improved patient care. Employers of all sizes will come to see the value of providing health services in the workplace, and they will become important providers of health information.
And where will the private providers fit in to this new landscape?
The polyclinic where you go to see a GP, for example, could be run by a private company. So you could have a Virgin Super Surgery with 25 GPs, lots of complementary therapists, and a wide range of diagnostic services. It would be the local nexus for health and well-being.
One of the most common complaints about the NHS is the variable quality of services. Is that likely to improve, and how will the public, or their advisers, be able to judge?
There is huge variation from hospital to hospital but I believe that will reduce as the system becomes more responsive. I can see local people becoming much more involved in the running of health services, particularly in areas with special needs.
We also need to develop a measure that the general public can use to judge quality and that will be as useful to them as the price ticket on a television when trying to choose between different models.
What I would like to see, hopefully in the next ten or 20 years, is effectively a "share price" for each healthcare provider. They will publish a small set of health quality indicators, or outcomes, and that will be the "share price" on which they are judged.
What part do you think advertising and marketing will play in the new healthcare environment?
Providers of health and social care are entering a very competitive environment in which patients and carers will make more informed decisions about the kinds of treatments they want and who is best placed to provide them. I expect direct-to-consumer advertising by NHS hospitals will happen first and become quite normal within the next ten years.
But the really important contribution of marketing will be in the encouragement of a culture within health and social care that understands the public service benefit of listening to the consumer. The NHS will become increasingly expert in predicting the needs of its customers - and therefore managing them effectively - when it starts to properly research their behaviour.
- Colin Cooper is the editor-in-chief of GP.
MOTORING - Patrick Le quement
Renault's Patrick le Quement talks to Steve Sutcliffe about the emergence of more female designers, the need for environmentally friendly materials and why size now matters for cars.
Patrick le Quement was born in 1945 in Marseille, France. He holds a BA Honours degree in product design from Birmingham Institute of Art & Design. In 1995, he was appointed the senior vice-president of quality and corporate design at Renault, and in the same year joined the Renault Management Committee.
What does the future hold for the motor-car in 2007?
Someone once said that what's important is not to predict the future but to make it possible, and I would like to think that's how we view the world of cars in 2007.
What's going to happen over the next 50 years is almost impossible to predict but, overall, I believe genuinely that the next 50 years and beyond will be exciting. I believe the motor-car is an extension of the self and, as such, I'm certain it will never disappear, or become an unemotional product like a refrigerator.
What, then, will be the key influences on the industry over the next 50 years?
I think the most important influences are going to come from the world's emerging countries. From places such as Korea, China, India, Russia, Romania and Bulgaria. That's where the most exciting new designers are going to come from. And what's even more interesting is that in a lot of cases those designers are, and will be, female. Which is when truly fresh ideas will start to emerge.
And what about car technology? How do you think that is going to change over the next half-century?
One of the most important challenges for future car-making will be to further reduce development time so as to make sure we offer fresh food rather than frozen food, so to speak. But we know also that because of safety our cars have become heavier recently, and this trend probably reached its peak last year. So I would say that in future we are re-entering an era where the search for lightness is vital.
Is there any individual who you think might influence the industry in the future?
Recently I was interviewed for a book alongside the designer Philippe Starck, and one thing Phillipe said that struck me was how important the search for new materials has become. He believes that one of the key issues today is the search for a material that can replace petroleum-based plastic that's easy to manufacture and high in quality, entirely recyclable and therefore environmentally friendly.
But I think metal is still going to remain an important factor in the car industry for quite some time. In the early 90s we had the use of many different materials, but I think that with the rise of oil prices we are finding that steel, in fact, is making a comeback.
Of course, we all want a new wonder material to appear but, as yet, it hasn't happened. So the dream we had until the early 90s, when we thought about being able to imagine shapes and use new materials to extend the natural motion of the body, has been shattered because the right materials haven't appeared.
Do you feel this has restricted you as a designer, and restricted the development of the car in general?
Not at all, because I'm an optimist overall. I don't believe that we are doomed for chaos and famine and so on. I think one should not underestimate the ingenuity of mankind. OK, there are plenty of examples of things that we have not done well as a species, but there are also plenty of things that have gone extremely well. If you look at India, for example (a country that some regard as being chaotic, because in many ways it is chaotic), the way they organise the delivery of meals is quite amazing. There are something like five million meals in Bombay that are distributed every day, despite the chaos of the city. And they always arrive hot, exactly what you've chosen, and on time.
This kind of ingenuity and the basically good side of human nature is what will keep us thriving forwards, making progress, especially when it comes to looking after our environment, which is, of course, an absolutely vital part of that progress. When people get organised, they can do wonderful things
Like dream up great car ad campaigns?
Renault has come up with some genuinely strong ads in the past. How do you see car advertising changing in the future?
To look forwards, you often need to look back. I remember going to Berlin a week after the wall came down and one of the most incredible things was that there was no advertising. It was like walking into a black-and-white movie. I think in life advertising adds colour and is now part of our environment. And the way I see advertising growing is via the internet. People who have invested in the net are making the most progress and are reaching their target audience. I think word-of-mouth advertising, using the net as a basis, is going to become popular.
As companies like Renault grow and sell more cars, there is, it seems, less space in which to drive. What can we do to make sure we don't run out of room in 50 years' time? And how do you think governments should be involved in solving this problem?
The idea of having a five-metre long car to carry an average of 1.4 people is ridiculous and will need to be legislated against in the future. But I think we're faced with a bigger dilemma in that we cannot continue the chaos of traditional commuting. That's where governments need to take more drastic action. Our politicians are being timid but I can see a time where we will be forced into working more from home, having meetings once a week, using vehicles that have three seats and which are a maximum of 3.5 metres long. But the solution must not be in the form of one sweeping statement of changes. Solving this problem will require time and macro-management. I think it was the PM of Italy, Prodi, who said: "If you take the right decision for your country, you are assured of not being re-elected." In a way, whoever tries to solve our traffic problems will probably suffer the same fate.
On a different note, how do you see motor-sport evolving in the future? Do you see it blossoming or fading away?
I think motor-sport is going to develop; it's not going to regress. Of course, Formula One will need to change radically because it will clearly not be tolerated in the future as it stands. Maybe we'll eventually see bio-fuel or even hybrids in F1, with far lower emissions and fuel consumption. That has to happen, and I'm sure it will.
- Steve Sutcliffe is the editor-at-large of Autocar.
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT - Howard Bernstein
Manchester City Council's Sir Howard Bernstein talks to Richard Garlick about coping with a terrorist bomb, hosting the 2002 Commonwealth Games and the future of our key cities.
Sir Howard Bernstein was born in North Manchester in 1953. He is the chief executive of Manchester City Council. Bernstein joined the council as a junior clerk in 1971, rising to become the deputy chief executive in 1992, before moving to his current job nine years ago. Together with the city council leader, Sir Richard Leese, he led the regeneration of Manchester City Centre after the 1996 IRA bomb, for which he received an honorary fellowship from the council of the Royal Institute of British Architects.
He also helped to lead Manchester's successful bid for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and was the secretary of its organising committee. He sits on the board of the Olympic Delivery Authority.
Sir Howard, you have said that Manchester can lead the way among the northern cities in achieving faster economic growth than London. Is that realistic?
We have been growing as fast as London for the past few years, and that's good. But we need to grow faster than London if we are going to close the productivity gap between North and South. If we deliver our target of 210,000 new jobs over the next 15 years in Greater Manchester, then we will grow at a faster rate than any other city or region in the country.
What kind of interventions do you and other northern cities need to make over coming decades to transform that productivity performance?
We have to make a step change in skills development. We need to get a much stronger focus around skilling people up for jobs we are creating rather than for jobs that don't exist. Look at the scarcity of construction skills in the UK, for instance. We're importing labour from Europe.
The other thing for me is worklessness. We really do need to up our game collectively in the public sector in incentivising people to make a beneficial contribution by getting back into the labour force. It's a huge issue in all the big cities. In some cases, you are seeing a second generation of worklessness, which is creating its own cycle of deprivation. We have got to get a grip on that.
We also need housing choice. In a place like Manchester, affordability is not exclusively about social rented housing. It's also about how you can create a housing market in which people from different income groups can access housing for sale. That's about creating new financial instruments. We have got to do a lot more work on that, and so has the Government.
What are the potential constraints on growth over the next decades for cities such as Manchester?
Global economic conditions could, of course, have an effect. Transport will also have an impact. If we don't eliminate transport problems, rising congestion will cost us 30,000 jobs or more over the next ten years or so. Employers want access to big labour markets. If people can't get to the centre or other parts of Greater Manchester because of rising congestion levels, and if people from poorer communities can't access jobs via public transport, then we are going to start to lose our competitive advantage.
This is why we are seeking investment in public transport, reform of transport institutions and peak-hour road pricing. Eight councils in Greater Manchester are for the package and two are against it. We are slightly disappointed that not everyone could support it - it means that the pace at which we develop gets affected. But we will continue to work with those authorities in the hope of bringing them on board.
The Government is encouraging informal groups of councils in big conurbations to consider coming together on a more formal footing in city regional bodies. Would you like to see the Manchester city-region put on a statutory basis?
How we work together will fundamentally influence future growth. Discretion and voluntary co-operation only takes people so far. If we are going to hold to account other public sector agencies who have an influence on the social and economic health of the city, you have got to have some teeth. We will work very hard to ensure that there is a consensus around pursuing radical agendas around economic growth. But we can't compromise on the strategic priorities, so ultimately there has to be a mechanism established that enables the clear majority of local authorities (in a city region) to support those strategies.
What are the key lessons of Manchester's regeneration for other cities?
First, leadership. Some people have to articulate a vision about the future direction of a place, and explain how you are going to get there. You have constantly got to look at new initiatives to move the city forward - what we are doing about road pricing is one of many manifestations of this.
The second thing is partnership. Partnership is about sharing the burden of leadership in terms of implementing the vision, recognising that local authorities can't do everything by themselves anymore. We have been very good as a city at working with our public sector partners in defining an economic vision, but really it has been private sector-led organisations such as Midas, our inward investment agency, and Manchester Enterprises, our economic development agency, that have led that process of renaissance. Midas helped to secure the Bank of New York's relocation to Manchester, which was probably the most high-profile relocation to a place outside London for a long time.
The third thing is to be resilient in the face of setbacks. Even after winning a national competition (to be the location for a new super-casino, a decision now under review by the Government), we still end up having to fight for what we think is right. There were the terrorist bombs, and difficulties over funding for the Metrolink tram. We have done a lot in Manchester, but I can assure you nothing has been easily done.
What does Manchester's revival say about the role of the capital versus the provincial cities?
What Manchester is now doing, perhaps for the first time in many years, is demonstrating that there is a real alternative to London and the South-East. What I wouldn't want anyone to think is that we believe that having a very strong, globally successful London is not important to the UK, because it is. But London is not the only centre of economic achievement in the UK, and places like Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield have an important role to play in achieving a strong economy.
- Richard Garlick is the editor of Regeneration & Renewal.
MANAGEMENT - Dianne Thompson
Camelot's Dianne Thompson talks to Matthew Gwyther about running a 'large' company, the future of charitable giving and the struggle by senior managers to achieve a work/life balance.
Dianne Thompson, the chief executive of Camelot Group, is one of the UK's most prominent female bosses. After a degree in French and English, she started out as a marketing trainee at the Co-op. Over 30 years, she has worked in education and at companies as diverse as ICI Paints, Sterling Roncraft, Woolworths and Sandvik Saws. From 1994-1997 she worked at Signet Group (the remnants of Ratner's the jewellers after the infamous prawn sandwich remark) - "they were the hardest three years of my entire career. I didn't laugh once." Camelot has just been granted the licence to operate the lottery until 2019 and with it comes the task of raising £2.2 billion of the funding required to stage the Olympics in 2012.
You've got 30 years of management experience under your belt in vastly different organisations. What has that taught you about the differences between large and small organisations? Do you see huge size as a disadvantage?
There's a huge difference and size does create difficulty. I've been very lucky because although Camelot appears to be a large company, with a turnover of more than £5 billion, involved with 26,500 retailers and equipped with large marketing budgets, I only employ 970 people. So by most definitions that makes us an SME. The powerful advantage is that everyone at Camelot knows me. They all see me at least twice a year in small groups. And I could probably name 600-700 of them.
You had to make changes when you took over in 2000.
We initially lost the second licence in 2000 and a judicial review followed which eventually we won. But by May of 2001 I'd lost more than a third of my staff. They had to look for other jobs and who could blame them? I inherited a company that was battle-scarred and weary, one which needed leading. We'd lost our creativity. As commercial director, I was taking decisions like which day of the week we should have the car-park cleaned.
I had no formal management training or education. However, I do believe very strongly in its use. I still think a huge amount comes down to instinct - I'm a firm believer in managing by common sense.
Funny that so many people get it so wrong.
That's because many senior managers just aren't true to themselves. There's no point pretending to be something you're not. You get what you see with me. I'm a Northern working-class woman. I was taught from day one that to get anything worthwhile in life you had to work bloody hard. Nothing comes on a plate. But if you believe you can do it, then most of the time you can. Maybe I don't have oodles of self-confidence but you can compensate for that by working hard.
Can there be successful companies in the 21st century that work in more traditional ways - according to established hierarchies using old-fashioned, top-down command and control methods?
It's not easy to do what we've tried to achieve here. You need to find different ways of working depending on your size. In a very large organisation you have a pyramid structure with a pinnacle. Then it becomes vital that you have leaders at all sorts of levels through the organisation who walk the talk. Look at Fujitsu, for example - one of our shareholders. It can be really tough for them with a Japanese head office and a huge worldwide operation that includes a British subsidiary here. Consistency of message is far harder. Those companies that develop, sustain and nurture a culture that successfully motivates their workforce and binds them together will be the most successful.
Your critics say that Camelot isn't that hard a company to run because it's like being Father Christmas 365 days a year. Running Exxon Mobile or a large hedge fund's a lot trickier, isn't it?
Camelot operates the UK National Lottery on less than 5 per cent of revenues making us the most cost-effective lottery in Europe - that's no mean feat. We're private, but under intense scrutiny and we have an unprecedented number of stakeholders - the 70 per cent of the population who play, alongside distributors, Parliament, retailers and beneficiaries. When grants are made to what people perceive as "controversial" good causes we receive complaints - despite the fact that we don't choose where money goes. That isn't easy - it's also challenging to balance the different interests of such a diverse range of stakeholders.
So is the manager's job more difficult than when you set out 30 years ago?
I think it is. There is a greater need for transparency and explanation for your actions than there was 20-30 years ago. Business has been rocked by some major financial scandals and they left a suspicion about business in the public eye. The consumer is more demanding, with more access to knowledge because of the internet and the speeding up of communications. Globalisation has changed everything as well. That affects people like me. I don't have a job any more - it's a way of life. Work is all-inclusive - laptop, BlackBerry, mobile on holiday. Totally in contact all the time.
This doesn't sound like an ideal future for those in senior positions.
It's difficult to be the chief executive of any company and not be involved all the time. But I believe in work/life balance for my staff - even if I'm not that brilliant at it myself.
Fifty years ago, we had premium bonds. Where will the lottery be in 50 years?
Of course the lottery is very different from premium bonds and always has been - for starters, we're not an investment product, we're much more like an FMCG or a leisure company.
As part of the recent bid competition we've spent a lot of time looking at the future. Evolving technology will offer greater convenience and new ways to play; that may change how people interact with us and how we do things but our ultimate values, our goals, won't change - it's still about delivering a fun product, creating winners and maximising returns to Good Causes in a socially responsible way.
We've developed some exciting plans for a World Game and new lottery lifestyle games - offering more experiential prizes. We're also planning multiplayer games - and a new Player Card to help make lost tickets a thing of the past. Those innovations will help us to appeal to new audiences and a more diverse consumer.
But amid the possibilities, there is one element for success that rarely changes. A wise company will invest in its employees, the human element.
- Matthew Gwyther is the editor of Management Today.
SPORT - Seb Coe
The London Olympic Organising Committee's Lord Coe talks to Paul Simpson about sport's relevance in the UK, boxing and why the England football team will never win the World Cup.
A youthful 51, the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympics, Lord Coe, has won at the Olympics three times: twice as a runner (with golden 1,500m runs in 1980 and 1984) and once as a wannabe host. A serial world record-breaker - in 1981, he ran the 1,000 metres in 2.13.40, a record that stood until 1997 - Coe has parlayed his athletic prowess into careers in politics as a Tory MP and right-hand man to William Hague and sports administration. He is already seen as a possible future president of the International Olympic Committee.
Participation in sport is falling and parents are worried about letting kids play in public spaces - assuming they have a public space to play in. With all that in mind, do you think anybody who isn't getting paid to do so will be playing sport in 2057?
Sport wouldn't have lasted 3,300 years if people were purely motivated by money. I didn't stop running when I retired professionally. David Beckham would be playing in a park somewhere if he hadn't made it at Manchester United. Sport has always been about self-exploration, achieving excellence and the ability to overcome challenges.
But aren't we becoming a nation that increasingly watches sport rather than playing it?
People have simplistic views of this. Some people blame computer games, others blame the sale of school playing fields. For me, the built environment has done more than anything to edit exercise out of our daily lives. Go into a hotel and try to walk up one flight of stairs - you'll be lucky to find one.
It's all of these things and more. That's why it's not enough just to sit here thinking we've got the Olympics in 2012 and people will want to come and participate. You need the structure, strategy and facilities - it always seemed slightly risible to me that you needed the Olympics to give a city like London (with nine-and-a-half million people) a velopark and a championship swimming pool. London isn't just behind other world class cities. Its sporting infrastructure, over the past 20 years, hasn't been as good as in Sheffield, where I grew up.
Most of all, you need role models. People like Beckham, Lewis Hamilton and Paula Radcliffe. I want someone who is pretending to be Tiger Woods on their PlayStation to want to be Tiger on the golf course.
So you don't see computer games and the internet as the enemy.
Technology will give youngsters access to their role models in ways we have not even begun to imagine.
But you would be disappointed if, in some way, the Olympics didn't encourage more Britons to play sport.
The key words are "in some way". The Olympics will highlight all sorts of games that are barely on the radar. I went to a school in North-East London where they had bought a manual from Poland and were playing handball. I'd never seen handball in person - you have to stay up to the early hours and turn to channel four hundred and something just to get it on television - but why shouldn't more people play handball?
In the 70s, experts were predicting that one in eight of us would be playing table tennis, yet only 3 per cent of us do. Would you like to give a hostage to fortune and predict a sport that will be massive 50 years from now? Badminton, perhaps?
We did see a jump in interest in badminton after the success at the Athens Olympics. A lot depends on the governing bodies. You might have success but you have to maintain that. In ice-skating, we had John Curry, Robin Cousins and Torvill and Dean in the 70s and 80s. Now we're having trouble getting a skater into a final. Every sport has to change with the times. You have to format your sport to suit the age without losing your underpinning philosophy or alienating the purists.
Do you fear for the future of boxing, a sport that seems to be increasingly politically incorrect?
I know a lot of people have different ideas about this but, as former steward on the Board of Control, I'm a great proponent of boxing. Properly regulated, it's a great sport, one I would encourage my kids to go into if that's what they wanted to do. Critics often forget the extraordinary amount of social work that boxing clubs do, also remembering that very few kids who go to these clubs end up as fighters.
As a Chelsea season ticket holder, do you think that there are too many foreigners in the Premiership?
I can see that if clubs just hoover up all the international talent, it makes it harder for English players. But, having watched Chelsea for 40 years, I think my kids are learning more about football from Claude Makalele, Gianfranco Zola and Didier Drogba than I did watching Micky Droy and Vinnie Jones. Thirty years ago, we'd get excited if a centre half could trap a ball!
Do you think America will have "got" soccer by 2057?
God alone knows. Much of America does get soccer now. More Americans play soccer than many other sports, certainly more than play NFL.
It's hard to see it succeeding as a TV sport unless the domestic league improves.
Yes, but countries with less demanding leagues often do better at the big tournaments. Players aren't injured as often. The US reached the last eight in 2002, Greece won Euro 2004, whereas our players enter a tournament on the wrong end of 70 games.
So you don't see England winning the World Cup?
We won't win it because we never enter properly prepared. The players never have enough time together and by the time the World Cup starts they're running on empty.
How fast will the mile be run by 2057?
No idea. In 1937, Sidney Wooderson ran the mile in 4.06.04. That's come down to 3.43.13. Running surfaces will improve, running shoes will get better, our understanding of the human body and psychology will increase and through the legitimate - I stress the word "legitimate" - appliance of science, that time will come down.
In the next 50 years, do you see doctors prescribing sport as a treatment?
It's already happening. Dr Bill Kirkup, the public health director for the North-East, says that access to sporting activity and exercise would be as important to the promotion of public health as hospitals and medical infrastructure. When I was in Gateshead, I saw ten or 12 stroke victims on the treadmill. Instead of just taking beta-blockers, they were doing what it took to minimise the risk of another attack.
- Paul Simpson is the editor of DCM and Champions magazines.
This article was first published on Campaign