New Delhi, Nov 20: Olympic double gold medallist Sebastian Coe today advised India to ''unearth'' a new generation of world class athletes if it wants to emerge as a leading sporting nation.
Coe, who is the chairman of London Organising Committee for Olympic Games (LOCOG), is in India to explore areas of cooperation between London, the venue of 2012 Olympic Games, and Delhi, which is hosting Commonwealth Games in 2010.
''India will have to unearth next generation of athletes to replace the likes of Anju Bobby George and Sriram (who finished seventh in 1500m in Montreal Olympics) by engaging its young people,'' Coe said after signing an MoU between LOCOG and Delhi Games Organising Committee.
Coe yesterday interacted with Indian atheltes at the Capital's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium where he met his ''good old friend'' Sriram whom he competed against in 1976 Montreal and 1980 Moscow Olympic Games.
''Commonwealth Games which India is hosting in 2010 is a staging post for the (Indian) athletes to prepare for bigger challenges such as world championships and Olympics,'' said Coe, who won gold in 1500m in Moscow and 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Wishing good luck to Delhi Commonwealth Games Organisers for successful hosting of the Games in 2010, Coe said they should not waste time in engaging young athelets to take to sport.
''Engaging young people to take to sport is of paramount importance to produce top class athletes. There should be development programme at the grass root level and among elite athletes,'' he said.
Coe and Indian Olympic Association President Suresh Kalmadi signed an MoU for the cooperation between the two organising committees in the fields of organising the Games, infrastructure development, volunteer training and coaching of athletes.
Kalmadi said the preparation work for the Commonwealth Games were on track and the Commonwealth Games Federation General Assembly meeting in Colombo this month had expressed ''happiness at the progress of work for the Delhi Games''.
''Infrastructure development is going on as per plan and construction at some of the venues has begun. We have finalised the General Operating Plan (GOP) and by next month end, construction will start at all the venues at full swing.
''Venue owners have assured us that by December 2009, construction will be over at all the venues and they will hand over the venues to us,'' he added.
The IOA president also said the signing of the MoU was just the starting point and the two organising committees will have to discuss the finer details and new areas of cooperation could be added later.