Alan Hubbard

Have you caught the election bug? We are not talking Cameron v Miliband here, that messy political punch-up which seems to be heading for a bore draw, or at best a split decision, when Great Britain goes to the polls on May 7.

No. The electoral scraps I am most looking forward to this year are those taking place in Zurich in May and two-and-a-half months later in Beijing when the two most prestigious posts in sport outside the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Presidency itself are up for grabs.  

Who runs FIFA, football’s governing body, and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) is of paramount importance with the former, sadly, now looking like a shoddy shoo-in for Teflon-man incumbent Sepp Blatter and the latter as intriguing a scrap between two legendary Olympians, Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka, as the forthcoming Mayweather-Pacquiao mega-fight in Las Vegas on Saturday week (May 2).

With five weeks to go before FIFA’s 209-strong electorate are asked to rubber-stamp him back into office for a fifth successive term it seems that slippery Sepp has it all neatly sewn up.

We should have expected nothing less of the old schmoozer as he calls in favours from the many cronies among his constituents across the Continents.

How does he get away with it? At last week’s CONCACAF Congress in the Bahamas (funny how FIFA, like other international governing bodies, never hold these prestigious gatherings in places like Bolton or the Baltics) Blatter was astonishingly compared to a combination of “Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Moses, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King” by the President of the Dominican Republic Federation, one Osiris Guzman.

My God! Maybe the good Lord himself, along with Allah, Buddha, the Dalai Lama, the Pope and Mother Teresa should feel slighted at not being bracketed with football’s Almighty One.

Sepp Blatter remains the favourite to secure a fifth term in office when FIFA go to the polls in May
Sepp Blatter remains the favourite to secure a fifth term in office when FIFA go to the polls in May ©Getty Images

It is a shame that his trio of mere mortal challengers, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, Royal Dutch Football Association President Michael van Praag and Portugal’s former superstar Luis Figo, are now unlikely to get more than a cursory nod from the FIFA electorate. But that’s the way the ball rolls when Blatter is blowing the whistle.

But enough of Blatter and his blather. Let’s look ahead to a much more savoury set-to when Great Britain’s Lord Coe and Ukraine’s Bubka go head-to-head for the administrative world championship of track and field.

There is a strong whiff of real politics as well as sports politics about this one, with both having served in their countries’ respective parliaments as MPs.

So they know the score when it comes to hustling on the hustings and scribbling manifestos.

Being unashamedly biased, I’d like to think that Coe is ahead at this stage of the game but IAAF insiders reckon that, like the current political scramble for Westminster, it is too close to call.

Front-runner Coe was certainly first out of the blocks on the campaign trail but long-time pal Bubka has now deftly poll-vaulted, so to speak, to being hard on his heels as they glad-hand their way around the world in the hunt for votes.

Once the Beijing smog has settled over the IAAF hot-seat, here in London we can start anticipating yet another election with strong sporting overtones.

This time next year Boris Johnson - by then doubtless a Conservative MP and eyeing up the Party leadership - must step down as London Mayor.

His rumbustious spell in office has been heavily influenced by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and there is no doubt that the capital - and the nation as a whole - has benefited hugely from the experience.

Like him or laugh at him, there is no doubt that Boris brought fun to the Games, and his idiosyncratic stewardship of the Mayor’s office.

Now it seems that both major parties are on the look-out for another "sporty" Mayoral candidate to win over what is become an important sector of the public.

Sebastian Coe has been on the campaign trail recently as he battles Sergey Bubka for the IAAF Presidency
Sebastian Coe has been on the campaign trail recently as he battles Sergey Bubka for the IAAF Presidency ©Getty Images

With both Coe and the West Ham United vice-chair Baroness Karen Brady having turned down serious approaches from 10 Downing Street, the Tories seem stuck for a suitable candidate of any description, let alone one with a sporting flavour.

Not so Labour. After next month’s election Dame Tessa Jowell will formally announce that she is seeking the Labour nomination, and politics apart, I personally hope she gets it and goes on to become Mayor.     

At 67 she is stepping down from Parliament after 23 years, six of them as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. She was also Olympics Minister and subsequently shadow Olympics Minister.

Lord Coe insisted that she remained a member of the Olympic Board even when she lost office.

She and Coe, as well as her Tory successor as Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson, have always rubbed along, even though they look at things from different political perspectives, and she became popular within the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Yet Tessa knew virtually naff all about the nuts, bolts and Byzantine machinations of the Olympic Movement when she first got the job of being the political anchor of the Games bid.

In fact I recall her early on once telling a group of us about a phone conversation she had just had lunch with "that nice Peter Rogge".

But she proved a remarkably quick learner and a good listener.

She certainly listened when a few of us sports journos, including insidethegames editor Duncan Mackay and myself, buttonholed her at a Crystal Palace athletics meet and suggested that not having Coe, one of Great Britain’s greatest-ever Olympic icons, on board at the time was plain daft as he was the one British sports personality the IOC hierarchy seemed to respect above all others.

There had been an odd reluctance on the part of the British Olympic Association (BOA) to get Coe involved, but soon after our chat Tessa made him a vice-president of the Bid Board and, when its then American-born chairman Barbara Cassani, a Ken Livingstone nominee, inevitably proved a square peg in the Olympic rings, it was Tessa who insisted on appointing Coe in her place.

Dame Tessa Jowell was instrumental in securing London the rights to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and she could be set to launch a bid to become the capital's next Mayor
Dame Tessa Jowell was instrumental in securing London the rights to host the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and she could be set to launch a bid to become the capital's next Mayor ©Getty Images

In fact, 2012 still owes her a great deal, because it was she who persuaded a reluctant Prime Minister Tony Blair on a veranda at No 10 in 2002 to ignore the doubts of Chancellor Gordon Brown and back London’s bid for the Games.

Helping to organise them over the following decade was the most productive experience of her time in the Commons, and now stands her in good stead for a Mayoral bid.

Currently the leashing contender according to the opinion polls, she rejects the notion that Boris is too hard an act to follow.

“I think I can be a hugely effective Mayor,” she says. “Being Mayor of London is not a celebrity gameshow.

“You need to bring Olympic-like discipline to changing this city.

“There are about 800,000 Londoners who live London’s housing crisis every day, being denied proper family life, being denied proper places for their children to play.

“So too bloody right I’m in this to build homes and too bloody right I’m in this to see a generation of children grow up.”

There’s little argument that Dame Tessa would also take good care of London’s sporting business.

The Tories must be worried that she would be hard to beat, not least in terms of the sporting vote.

But here’s a thought.  The man who succeeded her as Olympics Minister - now Sir Hugh Robertson - is also leaving Parliament.

The word is he may take over from Coe as BOA chair should Seb be first past the IAAF post. But could he be a surprise Mayoral candidate?

In that event, Jowell v Robertson could be as fascinating a sporting duel as Coe v Bubka.