Monday, July 19, 2010

Saving Olympic Sailing

The International Sailing Federation (ISAF) is concerned about the future of Sailing as an Olympic event. In May 2010, a special committee published their draft report that focused on the problems of Olympic Sailing, which are many when compared with other Olympic events. Solving the issue depends on what side of the fence you stand. From the outside, Olympic Sailing is a mess. It is hugely expensive for competitors and hosts, it provides very little revenue from spectators and media rights, and it is highly technical.

However, from inside the sport, Olympic Sailing has evolved to what it is based on what it was. An Olympic Sailing event isn’t that much different than most regattas, other than the parties aren’t very wild and there is nearly as many coaches (and RIBs) as entrants. Like most everything else in our world, success at the Olympic level has escalated, and now requires more effort and focus. For Sailing, more effort translates quickly to more expense, thus uncomfortably dividing the haves and the have nots. For the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which seeks to bring the world together through sport, Sailing is not the best component of their formula.

To the rescue, at least in their eyes, is the International Kiteboard Association (IKA). The IKA is an International Class Association of ISAF and is responsible for the global administration of this part of the sport. They believe that Kiteboarding has all of the things that the Olympic Sailing events do not, and provides the solution for all the problems that the IOC has with Sailing. To state their case, the IKA has published a strategy paper that highlights the following key issues:

- Make sailing accessible and affordable
- Make sailing attractive to the youth of the world
- Make sailing attractive to media and spectators
- Reduce costs at the Olympic Games
- Simplify qualification systems for the Olympic Games

The strategy paper states the shopping list of problems with Olympic Sailing, many of which are broad problems for the entire sport, and how Kiteboarding can provide the solutions.

Given how ISAF is not an organization known for its ‘visionary’ aptitude, it would be a shocker to see Kiteboarding become an Olympic event. However, given that the IOC provides ISAF with 65% of its income (2004 figures) so as to manage Olympic Sailing, keeping Sailing in the Olympics will prevent ISAF from having to drastically redesign itself, and may motivate them to think outside the box.

Click here for the IKA strategy paper.

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