The gap between Olympic sailing and all other forms seemed to widen even further yesterday ISAF President Göran Petersson delivered his opening address to the ISAF Council members during their first day of meetings at the 2009 ISAF Annual Conference held in Korea, Busan.
The President made passing reference to other disciplines and recent debate over ISAF’s regulations regarding the word ‘World’, but the focus of the speech was how ISAF had to implement measures dictated by the International Olympic Commission (IOC). Some of these recommendations will be good for (Olympic) sailing like the addition of athletes to voting positions.
Petersson said in his speech:
“Athletes must be included within the decision making bodies of the Olympic Movement through Athletes Commissions and other positions that carry full voting rights”.
Well, we have an Athletes Commission, which is well run and very active, but ISAF has no athletes in positions that carry full voting rights.
So we have a clear message and the challenge is ours to make it happen. I believe there should be an athletes representative on the Executive and therefore also on Council. We cannot do this overnight and today I would like to propose to you that we invite Ben Barger, Chairman of the Athletes Commission, to join us at the table for the remainder of the meeting with the right to speak on any subject he likes, but for the moment he will have no voting rights. The full implementation of the recommendation requires changes to our Constitution and Regulations. This, I trust, will be done as soon as possible.
ISAF receive almost all their revenue from the IOC, so it is little wonder that they are so focused on the Games. Petersson’s recent appointment to the IOC means that his focus has to be on promoting the Olympics. Petersson acknowledges the politics, suggests that ISAF exists not for the sport of sailing, but more specifically, the Olympic sport of sailing.
Our Olympic Commission has been tasked to ensure the continued and improved value of sailing in the Games. A strategic approach is essential. I am going to be a little more blunt than normal for the sake of clarity. In my opinion too often we have made decisions in ISAF led by our own personal feelings, loyalty or sense of belonging and even, dare I say, self interest in respect of the country you represent,. We should have made decisions on what would develop the sport best for the Olympics. However, I am confident that the Olympic Commission is tackling this problem and that we will deliver. Already next year the IOC will vote on reducing the “safe” so called core sports from 26 to 25 and I do not want sailing to go out of this core.
Even when talking about the word ‘World’ in relationship to sailing events, Petersson still only has Olympic classes in mind. Seems that the only way you can be a ‘World Champion’ in sailing is if you sail an Olympic class boat. While many in the sailing world are looking to ISAF for leadership in many areas, the opening speech by the President of the organisation completely ignored some of the biggest issues facing the ‘sport’. ISAF are trying to promote their ‘World Cup’, but Petersson himself has doubts about the way (Olympic class) sailing is run.
This year’s start of the ISAF Sailing World Cup has been an exciting and important step forward for ISAF. I would like to thank the event organisers and the management group for the progress made. It is clear, however, that much more work still needs to be done and I personally feel that the World Cup needs to be given even greater importance with a very well defined purpose. We have many levels of ‘World’ labelled products in the Olympic Classes: World Rankings; World Cup; ISAF World Championship and Class World Championship. I am not sure this structure serves the promotion and the marketing of our sport but more importantly the sailor’s best interest and I look forward to the relevant committees being able to deal with these questions and challenges.
As for the rest of the competitive sailing world – the A-class, C-Class, Dragons, XODs, 18 foot skiffs, J24, Melges, J109, Classics, Extreme 40s, TP52, IRC, IMOCA, Farr 40, Volvo 70, Moth, RC44, Swann etc. etc. etc…. well Petersson’s speech includes a sentence at the end that shows just how much they matter in the eyes of the ISAF leadership:
I have only touched on a small cross section of the ISAF activities and in preparing this report I realised how much actually is going on in ISAF. I am pleased to be the President of an organisation which is so alive and full of activities from the elite to grass roots level, from competition to cruising sailing.