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    Posted: 12 May 10 at 2:28pm
Multihull mistake forces ISAF Olympic Sailing overhaul

Sometimes a major tragedy is needed to prompt a major change. The death of five sailors in the 1998 Sydney Hobart race prompted major changes in offshore racing safety regulations. The removal of the fastest and most exciting boat, the Tornado multihull, for the 2012 London Olympics may in the long term be the trigger that changes the face of sailing world-wide over the coming decades.

The widely criticised decision for the multihull removal was made at the 2007 ISAF Annual Conference in Estoril, Portugal. Faced with a major backlash and at the same time threats to the place of sailing on the Olympic sporting roster, the 2008 Madrid conference recognised the need for an overall strategic plan. Rather than enduring more disastrous ad hoc decision making they therefore set up the Olympic Commission.

Phil Jones (AUS), Technical Delegate for sailing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and CEO of Yachting Australia since 1997 and the chairman of the Commission, talked to Sail-World today soon after the Olympic Committee report was published.

‘It wasn’t the 2007 multi-hull decision on its own. In 2004-2005 ISAF told the IOC it was going to make the sport more attractive in the Olympics by introducing faster and more exciting boats. Very clear direction. And then of course, two years later they decide that they were going to take out the multi-hull.

‘Now whether you believe or not you will make the sport more attractive by introducing faster more exciting boats, that is not the question. The point is, you can’t tell the IOC one thing and then two years later do something diametrically opposite. That just demonstrates you are not working through any kind of plan.

‘Now we have one!’

At the 2010 mid-year ISAF conference in Hungary last week the Olympic Commission presented their initial report.
At the end of the detailed two and a half hour presentation, Göran Petersson (SWE), President of ISAF, said: 'Is there anybody here who thinks that doing nothing is an option for us?' Not a single hand was raised.


ISAF Olympic Commision – Report to ISAF Executive Committee May 2010 ISAF
Recommended as a Draft Report for wider consultation

Executive summary


ES.1 In 2002 the IOC noted that, when compared with other summer Olympic sports, sailing had a high number of athletes and events in comparison to its broadcast revenues and spectator appeal. In addition the cost and complexity of the operations of the sailing competition presented challenges for the development of the sport. As a result the IOC reduced the number of sailing events and athletes.

ES.2 Since then IOC has introduced a process for systematic review of the Olympic Programme, and has developed a set of 33 criteria to be used to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each sport, and the value that each sport adds to the Olympic Programme. The 4-yearly publication of the IOC review enables IOC delegates, ISAF and sailors, and other sports to compare how well each sport meets the IOC criteria.

ES.3 More recently IOC President Jacques Rogge stated that 28 sports is the maximum for the summer Olympics, and that for its process of rejuvenation the IOC has to have a system of elimination and entry. 'And in future' he commented, 'that is what we are going to do on a regular basis. At times we are removing one sport and adding another one'. We have recently seen this with the removal of baseball and softball, and the introduction of golf and rugby. There are many other sports now seeking to become the next new Olympic entrants.

ES.4 Remaining an Olympic sport is critical to ISAF, and to the growth and development of sailing globally. The IOC provides ISAF with 65% of its income (2004 figures). Probably more significantly MNAs and sailors benefit financially too through support from NOCs and sponsors; the Commission estimates this to be worth over €100m annually - and this does not include the industry, including manufacturers and classes, that supports Olympic sailing.

ES.5 Sailing has historically had good links into the IOC, and will be making its 26th appearance in the Olympic Programme in 2012. Sailing scores well against some of the criteria, but is currently weak in other important areas such as spectator and broadcast revenue, and costs. Sailing is also strong in Europe in particular, but is much weaker in emerging areas such as Asia and Africa.

ES.6 To secure its position as an Olympic sport, ISAF needs an overarching Olympic strategy, rather than one-off initiatives, that will improve its performance against the IOC criteria and maximise the value that the sport adds to the Olympic Programme. If ISAF does this, ISAF will become stronger, and the sport, sailors and MNAs will benefit. If ISAF fails to do this, the IOC’s policy of Olympic sport selection and de-selection will make sailing progressively more vulnerable.

ES.7 The Commission has identified 5 core segments to this overarching strategy which link to IOC criteria: increasing universality (global participation); expanding Olympic qualification opportunities; building the popularity of the sport for media and spectators; improving the ISAF event structure; and enhancing sailing in the Olympic Games.

ES.8 In each case the Commission has analysed sailing's strengths and weaknesses, and made specific recommendations which the Commission believes enhance the sport while remaining true to its fundamentals.

ES.9 Across these recommendations the Commission encountered consistent themes that should be reflected in ISAF's future Olympic decisions:

ISAF should expand the reach and appeal of sailing - to emerging nations and sailors, and to spectators and the media

ISAF should reduce costs - for sailors and MNAs, for event organisers, for IOC and the media

ISAF should build more consistency and continuity to our Olympic decisions, giving MNAs better return on their Olympic investment, and providing sailors a clear pathway for sailors from junior to youth to Olympic

ISAF should focus Olympic strategy more on youth, and encourage adoption of more exciting (for athlete and spectator) events and equipment

ISAF should introduce more structure to the annual calendar of sailing events.

ES.10 Taken together, the Commission believes its recommendations provide ISAF with a clear vision for sailing in the Olympics, and a clear strategy for achieving this vision. The Commission is ready to support the Executive Committee in considering the allocation of responsibilities, timelines and the financial implications of implementing the various recommendations.


The mission for ISAF

To strengthen the position of sailing in the Olympic Games.

To leverage sailing in the Olympic Games in a way that serves to grow interest and participation in sailing as a global sport.

To limit cost and environmental impact in achieving our goals.


Vision for sailing as an Olympic Sport

Building Popularity


Through easy to understand events, good live presentation, high quality production for television and on-line distribution, assisted by the application of the latest tracking and other technology, and broad coverage in other media, Olympic sailing is an attractive, quality sports entertainment property to the benefit of all stakeholders
Increasing Universality - Our sport is widely practiced globally by people of all ages and abilities and of both genders, on inexpensive equipment available around the world. There are clear and accessible pathways for young people from local to regional, international and Olympic competition and our sport is a core part of all major Regional ‘Games’

Expanding Qualification opportunities

Our qualification system provides opportunities for the best sailors from each nation to participate at the Olympic Games and provides continental representation. Local competitions ensure that the system is as widely accessible as possible at reasonable cost to participants

Improving event structure

The structure of our events clearly identifies our champions and provides cost effective pathways for athletes and MNAs to prepare for the Olympic Games, whilst encouraging the global spread of the sport through local opportunities to compete and providing our best athletes with a platform to generate income through commercial support

Enhancing the Olympic Games

The pinnacle event every four years, the Olympic Games demonstrates the diversity and skills of the leading young sailors from each nation. No athlete has an equipment advantage. We showcase our sport in a format that provides entertaining and enjoyable coverage to the large live and remote audience that is attracted through previous exposure to our sport

Where from here??

Phil Jones continues ‘So, we obviously have to do something. And I think we made a good start. Now we are inviting input from various International authorities and classes. We will refine that and make a clear plan to move forward.

‘At the time of the 2008 Olympics there were 126 MNA’s (Member Nation Authorities); by comparison Football (soccer) the World Game, has 208 countries competing for 32 places in the World Cup.

‘The interesting thing is that the IOC consists of a number of nations who participate in the Olympic qualifications and this is the benchmark, not the number competing in the Olympic games ... that is pretty significant isn’t it?

‘There are five IOC continents – Africa, Oceania, which is the smallest of the continents, the America’s, both North and South (the IOC counts it as one (1) continent), Asia and Europe.

‘When you look at the IOC distribution of membership there are more African nations in the IOC than any other continent. And so if you, and again some of the comparisons are interesting, if you look at Europe in 2008, (they had in the IOC) there were 49 members. In ISAF, there were 46. In other words there were only three nations that ISAF didn’t have in membership in Europe.

‘If you look at Africa there are 53 IOC members and 15 African MNA’s, and the IOC considers that where that ratio is worse than 33%, you basically have low membership in a continent.

‘Asia is slightly less of a problem; 44 nations in the IOC and 25 ISAF members. So you know we are just over 50% of the IOC memberships.

'We know where the potential is, the key is what we do from here...' stated Jones.

In Parts 2 and 3 of this Olympic Commission report analysis we will look at what can be done in the short and long term, the reaction from key players and more...

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