Short-changed by Olympic changes
"Put the athletes first...there are no Games without the athletes, no breathtaking moments of brilliance, no spine-tingling magic. Putting athletes centre stage is not just about world-class venues, it is about creating an environment where they have everything they need to perform to their limits."
The best bit about that quote, and I've heard him deliver versions of it a few times over the last year or so, is that he gives every impression of meaning it. There are a few badminton players and rhythmic gymnasts who might disagree but Coe cares. He may have become a suit but he still thinks like an athlete.
That, as far as I can tell, makes him a shining exception. How else can you explain the treatment dished out last week to cycling champions Rebecca Romero and Bradley Wiggins? No consultation, no consideration and no chance to defend the Olympic titles they dedicated their adult lives to winning.
When Romero, the reigning and perhaps last Olympic women's individual pursuit champion, read about plans to scrap her event she thought it was a mistake.
Having taken time to convince herself that she did have another Olympics in the tank, the 29-year-old Englishwoman could be forgiven for thinking somebody in authority might have given her a heads-up on October's "we're going to ditch your event" bombshell.
Erm, no. Unless the International Cycling Union (UCI) thinks website stories about its proposals for the Olympic track cycling schedule count as prior warning, this most basic of courtesies was not extended.
The first Romero, Wiggins and all the other elite endurance cyclists heard/read about the radical surgery being done to their sport (and therefore careers) was at exactly the same time as cycling fans around the world heard/read about it.
OK, you might think, proposals get leaked to the media all the time. It's part and parcel of assessing new ideas. I'm sure if and when these suggestions come to be debated properly all the relevant people will be consulted.
Sorry, wrong again! Last Thursday the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board gathered in Switzerland to rubberstamp the UCI's plans. Once more, Romero and co were left to discover these developments from the media.
Far be it from me to do down the journalistic trade in anyway but I can't help thinking this is wrong.
There is an oft-quoted statement about sporting champions: it takes 10,000 hours or 10 years to make them. If that's the case, they must deserve at least a few minutes of the blazerati's time. Romero couldn't even get anybody at the IOC or UCI to reply to her emails.
Putting the athletes first? I'm not sure they even made the final this time.
Leaving aside the lack of communication between the administrators and those they serve (or perhaps they think it is the other way around?), this episode reveals a stunning disregard for the demands of elite sport.
The vast majority of would-be Olympians do not ask for much. Neither do they earn a great deal. What they do need, however, is certainty. To dedicate themselves to something so difficult they need to know where they stand and precisely what is required of them.
It is a four-year commitment. The Games are just the final exam after an Olympiad of preparation. There are times you can change the syllabus or shake up the schedule but a third of the way into the course is not one of them.
Romero is rightly famous (though perhaps not famous enough) for switching from rowing to cycling in 2006. Two years later she became a world champion and Olympic medalist in both sports. She is the only British woman to compete in two different sports at the Olympics and one of only two women from anywhere to have won medals in two sports at the Summer Games.
That last career change was forced upon her by a combination of injury and the desire for a fresh challenge. Multi-talented, adaptable and determined, Romero decided to try cycling and the rest is history.
And now she must do it all over again. For her next trick she will attempt to win an Olympic medal on the road in the time trial. Having considered more dramatic moves (athletics, canoeing, speed skating), Romero has acknowledged she is probably still best off on a bike.
But there is a huge difference between a 3km event on the boards and a 25km event on tarmac. It is the difference between three and a half minutes of concentrated speed and 35 minutes of carefully controlled effort. In track and field terms, it is the chasm between a 1500m race and the 10,000m - not a frequently attempted Olympic double.
Can she do it? I would not bet against her. She won the British time trial title in her first competition as a cyclist and has been training towards next year's world championships in Australia for the last two months. Her annoyance with cycling's stuffed shirts has probably helped motivate her during those three-hour rides in the Berks/Bucks borders.
The really refreshing thing about her attitude is that she is already imagining what it would be like to be roared on to victory through the streets of London in 2012, although Beijing silver medallist Emma Pooley might have something to say about that.
I wish her well. It is not beyond the realms of possibility to think that both Romero and Wiggins will swap individual pursuit golds in Beijing for time trial medals in London. Good luck to them.
But they should never have been treated in such offhand fashion.
I would like to say theirs is an unusual story - that cycling's mid-Olympiad tinkering is the exception - but it is not. Another British Olympic champion in Beijing has spent the last six months labouring under the same uncertainty.
Thankfully it seems the rumoured threat to Rebecca Adlington's 800m freestyle event is unfounded. Not that swimming's international federation (Fina) or the IOC can take any credit. Britain's most successful swimmer for a century has been kept as far from the loop in regard to what is being planned as Romero and Wiggins were.
Even now it is not clear if Fina fully understands that plans to bring the women's Olympic programme in line with the men's schedule (therefore replacing the 800m with the 1500m) cannot be implemented in time for London 2012. That nugget of consolation emerged from last week's IOC meeting. Did anybody tell Adlington? What do you think?
Perhaps "putting athletes first" all the time is an unrealistic ambition. Maybe there are times when sport's governing bodies need to take a wider, more strategic view of what is best for their sport. But there cannot be many.
Games are nothing without people to play them. The suits should remember that next time they move the goalposts.