You might think having a conversation with three Knights of the British Empire (or two Knights and a Dame to be precise) would be intimidating. Lord Sebastian Coe, Sir Steve Redgrave and Dame Kelly Holmes though, on their whirlwind visit to India, were far from it. They spoke candidly about India, being inspiration to generations of athletes, the relevance of the Commonwealth Games, and other subjects. Excerpts from the interview:
Two years to go for London 2012, how do things look?
Coe, chief of the London 2012 organising committee and the second fastest man over 800m in history: We are slightly ahead of schedule, but there is still a massive amount of work to be done. Hosting a multi-disciplinary event is a huge undertaking. It is not easy anywhere in the world, whether it is London, Atlanta or New Delhi. We've got a number of top businesses involved from the start and will keep involving the community in every step.
Coe: We were briefed on preparations, and we have seen a couple of venues. The organisers are in the best place to comment on the preparedness. There will always be difficulties, but I am sure Delhi will host a great Games.
Holmes, the third woman in the history of Olympic sport to win 800m and 1500m at the same Games; also president of Commonwealth Games, England: The people of Delhi and India are so warm and hospitable; I have no doubt they will host a fantastic event and that they will witness some great competition. Security, of course, an issue, but that is true of any venue. In India, you have the advantage of some fantastic technological expertise to deal with these concerns.
In the world of professional, big-money sport what is the relevance of the Commonwealth Games?
Redgrave, one of only four Olympians to have won a gold at five consecutive Games: It is an opportunity to showcase Olympic sports. Not everyone can be great at cricket, so when you get the opportunity to play a new sport, grab it with both hands. The most important thing is to have fun. I am a terrible golfer, but I still enjoy playing golf with friends. This will be a chance for Indians to see and hopefully experience new sports.
Holmes: The Commonwealth Games are a massive platform for athletes to experience multi-discipline events and can be a huge stepping-stone. For sports like squash and netball, this is the Olympics, so they are actually trying to be the best in the world. It's huge, and will always be relevant.
Why is it that a number of big names have pulled out of the Games?
Redgrave: The big names are not that important. Unlike the Olympics, where sometimes the gap in standard between participating teams is huge, here the playing field is more level, so it is a chance for young athletes to shine. Even if established names do not come, the level of competition will be high.
Holmes: One reason why some people have pulled out is because of scheduling. Chris Hoy(cyclist) had to pull out because of the European Championships, which is a qualifying event for the Olympics. Then there is the question of where the Games fit in with players' training schedules, so there is nothing we can do. But the Games have always been the birthplace of new stars.
How important is the legacy?
Coe: One of the main reasons that support for London 2012 has not dipped is that the revival of east London will be a major part of the Games' legacy. It is the same for Delhi. Apart from everything else, the stadia created for the Games must become a hub of sporting activity and remain so for many years.