Thursday, November 15, 2012

Running My Life: The Autobiography by Seb Coe, review

Paul Hayward traces Sebastian Coe’s remarkable rise from working-class Yorkshire lad to Olympic mastermind in Running My Life.

Sebastian Coe's memoirs confirm him as a man of the people.
Sebastian Coe's memoirs confirm him as a man of the people. Photo: Tony Duffy
A common prejudice about Seb Coe is that he was a brilliant Olympian who morphed into a Tory Boy, sucking up to power. This autobiography affirms him as a man of the people rather than a son of privilege. No living Briton has covered so much social ground, from runner-geek to Conservative apparatchik to messianic transformer of London at the triumphant 2012 Games.
By any measure, Coe’s life is cinematic. London 2012 was not his work alone, but he was its guiding spirit. It provided the political stage denied to him by the grubbiness of Westminster and the shambles of William Hague-era Conservatism
If the reader risks backache picking up all the names Coe drops, it is because he has always gravitated towards high office. His apparent poshness is an illusion. In a passage probably designed to correct a myth or two, Coe describes his grandmother Violet as “a true cockney” and great-grandfather Harry Newbold as a professional gambler. 
His father, Peter, who oversaw his athletic rise, was a communist sympathiser who joined the Merchant Navy to avoid swearing allegiance to the Crown. When Coe failed the 11-plus, Peter declined to spoon out fees and sent him to Hugh Clopton Secondary Modern in Warwickshire. Coe writes: “If I had ended up at a third-rate public school I would never have gone on to do what I’ve done.” 
Full review at The Telegraph

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