Olympian Seb Coe loves to travel

The YMCA, Melbourne and Chicago's jazz scene get full marks from Sebastian Coe. The double Olympic gold medallist and Chairman of the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games tells Nick McGrath about his travel likes and dislikes.

“As an international athlete – and subsequently through my work with the British Olympic Committee – I’ve been lucky enough to travel all over the world, visit some wonderful countries and spend time in many fascinating cities. And unlike some athletes, I’m not one to stay in my hotel room before a race. Some athletes don’t like leaving the Olympic Village but I’ve never really liked doing that. I’ve always preferred to get there a few days in advance to acclimatise and get used to any time changes that were necessary. Sometimes you do that over a period of a couple of weeks. In the lead-up to the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, I was in Chicago for nearly four weeks getting used to a six-hour time difference. I then moved to LA two weeks before the games to get used to just the final two hours, and I’ve always been a firm believer that when you’re in a foreign country for six or seven weeks you can’t just sit in a hotel room or remain within the confines of the village. You want to get out.

Chicago sounds

Chicago200Chicago's jazz scene is a big draw
Consequently Chicago has become one of my favourite cities through the experience of preparing there for the 1984 Games, and I’ve been back many, many times since. I return regularly to see friends that I made during that time, and as a jazz fan Chicago is a dream. I listen to live jazz at home in the UK a couple of times a week, so a trip to Chicago gives me my American jazz fix.

Hand luggage memories

My hand luggage has changed over the years, but when I was competing I would never travel without my running spikes because you can put anything you want through the hold of a plane and if it doesn’t come out you can always replicate it; but you can’t replicate in a couple of days a pair of racing shoes that are comfortable and broken in and are just at the right stage of their life for them to do exactly what you need them to do. So the thought of losing those doesn’t bear thinking about. With the increase in security at airports these days I guess athletes must have to remove the spikes from the trainers before they take them on board.

Aussie rules

Melbourne200Melbourne is a favourite city
Another favourite destination of mine is Australia where I have business interests as well as a lot of friends and happy memories. I particularly love Melbourne as it’s a big cosmopolitan city, probably not quite as cosmopolitan as Sydney, but I prefer it. It’s an easier city to get around than Sydney and some of the coastal areas just up from Melbourne on the New South Wales coast are spectacular.

Don’t like…

Like most people I like to do a mixture of things when I’m travelling. I like to take a few days out immediately when I get there to acclimatise but then my natural enthusiasm and curiosity takes hold, and I go and see the city and the galleries. I’m not really one for lying on a beach, but having said that I’ve never really tried it.

Rooms with a view…

Beaurivage200Swiss room with a view at the Beau Rivage
Beau Rivage
If I’m travelling privately on holiday I actually prefer to stay in small, more personal hotels, and even YMCAs sometimes, but professionally I have been very fortunate to have experienced some incredible hotels over the decades. I like the Beau Rivage in Lausanne, which is wonderfully grand and opulent and has fantastic views over the Alps. The Fullerton in Singapore is fabulous. It’s located in the heart of the city at the mouth of the Singapore River and it’s got a great buzz about it and I love the eclectic atmosphere of Singapore.

Trains, not planes or automobiles

Bluetrain200Coe would like to try South Africa's Blue Train
If I had to choose between those three modes of transport, you know I really rather like trains. I’m not a great lover of driving and I love good trains where you’ve got a nice restaurant car and the ability to relax and perhaps work if you need to. I’ve not had the pleasure of enjoying one of the world’s great train journeys like the Orient Express or South Africa’s Blue Train but I’d love to. I used to live in Italy and used to travel on a wonderful train which went from Bologna all the way over to the eastern coast and passed some incredibly beautiful scenery en route.

London calling

LondonOly200"London is going to be a great place next summer"
MM Productions/Thinkstock
I’m confident that London can deliver a memorable Olympic Games; one that leaves a real, lasting legacy for the city and I truly believe that London is the most vibrant, the most exciting and the most culturally diverse city on the planet, and one with a passion for sport that is unmatched anywhere else in the world. There were 20,000 British fans watching Olympic sport at the Athens games. Before the Beijing games, when the Olympic torch came through London there were a million people out on the streets. I don’t think any other city would get near those numbers. London’s going to be an incredible place to be next summer and I’m sure I’ll need to keep the travel lessons that I’ve learnt over the years near the forefront of my mind; ‘Travel is enjoyable but it’s sometimes a challenge and it always pays to be patient’.”

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