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Paris 2024: Surprise moves on eve of crucial meeting

by Richard Gladwell, 10 May 2018 18:40 PDT 11 May 2018
Both 470 events are sunk along with the Finn under the World Sailing President's personal submission to the Mid-Year meeting © Richard Gladwell

Two surprise developments in the last 24 hours have clarified/confused the selection process for Events for the 2024 Olympic Regatta to be sailed in Marseille.

An unlisted two year old video with Kit McConnell (NZL), IOC Sports Director mysteriously appeared on Youtube showing just over 20 views initially. The interview was first played at the 2016 Mid-Year meeting and distributed to Council members upon their request

It gave an insight into many of the mantras - "change or be changed" - that are trotted out by World Sailing's hierarchy to those who question why the Sailing Olympics need to be the subject of revolutionary and every expensive change with scant regard for the current investment.

In a separate development, the President of World Sailing, Kim Andersen, published a radical submission for the 2024 Olympic Regatta which kept all the existing classes in the regatta, had four Mixed events and renamed a few others. Taken at face value, it is assumed that the gender accounting has been done and meets the International Olympic Committee prescription of gender equality in competition.

It is not clear whether the Andersen submission (MO9-18) which he stressed was a personal one - had been approved by the Board of World Sailing or if it would be allowed to be tabled at the Mid-Year Meeting of World Sailing where the Events for the 2024 Olympic Regatta will be decided in a labyrinthine process of policy and regulation.

Just over a month ago former President of the International Sailing Federation, Paul Henderson (CAN) had also tried to lodge a late submission, this time to freeze all Olympic classes until November 2022.

After quoting the timeline of events leading to the Event and Equipment selection, CEO Andy Hunt responded: "The President has decided not to accept your late submission based upon the above [timeline] as there is no urgency to your submission (as required by Regulation 15.7). The democratic processes of World Sailing must be fully adhered to in order to enable Council to make its decisions on events for the 2024 Olympic Games in May."

Kim Andersen also responded to Henderson's request pointing out that World Sailing's governing body had already agreed policies which "included 2 to 4 mixed events and gender equity at an event and athlete level". Therefore Henderson's late Submission for no change could not be accommodated.

World Sailing on the water in Rio de Janeiro, on Day 6 - photo © Richard Gladwell <a" />
World Sailing hierarchy on the water in Rio de Janeiro, on Day 6 - photo © Richard Gladwell
It will be interesting to see which logic is applied to the current President's own late submission lodged just hours before the start of the Mid-Year Meeting.

Kim Andersen's Submission was not circulated to media and but it has now been listed on the World Sailing website: click here to view

In his submission, Andersen retains the five events and equipment for 2024 that were excluded from the current review by World Sailing. He also proposes to retain both Windsurfer events using the current equipment, the RS:X for Men and Women.

Andersen then drops the Heavyweight Mens One Person Dinghy (Finn) and uses that for a novel Mixed One Person Dinghy-Two Person Team event, using a class yet to be determined.

Bryony Shaw (GBR) - Rio Olympics - Day 2, August 9, 2016 - photo © Richard Gladwell <a" />
Bryony Shaw (GBR) - Rio Olympics - Day 2, August 9, 2016 - photo © Richard Gladwell
He also drops the Men's Two Person Dinghy using the 470 and introduces a new event the "Mixed Two Person Dinghy" using a new class.

Andersen's third drop is the current Women's Two Person Dinghy using the 470 and introduces a new "Mixed KiteBoard - Two Person Team" event - again using new equipment.

That brings Four Mixed events into the 2024 Olympics, where only one currently exists, and the other two boat sports (Rowing and Canoeing) do not have any Mixed events. Aside from Equestrian and Shooting which are open to all genders, only nine of the 28 Olympic sports have a Mixed Event.

However further down the Submission, Andersen lists out Events (using different names to those in the opening section of the Submission) and then lists the Equipment possibilities post-November which shows all the existing classes mentioned.

For more analysis on the late Submission and the document itself see

IOC Sports Director sets scene for change

In the video interview IOC Sports Director IOC Kit McConnell stresses that International Federations need to "look at ways to modernise and innovate while keeping tradition while reflecting the specific nature of the sport, but continuing to look for opportunities to grow an innovate." Andersen's proposal involves eliminating the two oldest classes in the Olympic Regatta.

The "Change or be Changed" comment attributed to IOC President Thomas Bach required sports to stay abreast with wider developments in society. However, McConnell (an Auckland Grammar old boy) noted that "no-one knows better than the Federations as to how to plan and deliver your own sports at the Games."

He also explained that the change in emphasis from a Sport based program to an Event-based program meant that the IOC while it had capped athlete numbers at 10,500 was not capping the Sports at the current 28 sports. However they would go to an event review level by collecting data at an event level and then discussing that with the Federations.

Alex Maloney and Molly Meech - 49erFX, Race 4, Rio 2016 - photo © Richard Gladwell <a" />
Gender equality in events and participation as much as possible is now expected in the 2020 Olympics and beyond - Alex Maloney and Molly Meech - 49erFX, Race 4, Rio 2016 - photo © Richard Gladwell

"We have to move in every sport to gender equality, as far as possible -reflecting the nature if the sport in terms of events and also athlete numbers. Our goal is very clear - to reach 50% female participation in the Game at 2020."

"But equally we are looking for innovation - in the program itself, the events in the program and how those events are used to showcase the sport and engage with youth around the world."

He added that the IOC was looking for equality in terms of numbers of athletes and numbers of events, and shied away from a leading question as to whether both sexes had to use the same equipment (boats/classes).

"Looking specifically at sailing I think you have been very creative and innovative in the approach to gender equality in terms of open and mixed events and also the balance between Mens Events and Women's Events.

"We would like to see absolute equality in terms of the numbers of events and equality in terms of female athletes in Sailing at the Games."

In response to a question on Innovation, McConnell referenced "steps made around broadcasting and digital engagement. Also at the Youth Olympic Games on the introduction of kiteboarding. We've seen the way you've looked at the formats of competition and the way those formats can also be innovative - using the same crews, the same equipment the same types of boats but also looking at new ways of conducting the competition, and also showcasing the competition through broadcast innovation, through digital engagement, through social media through spectator engagement - all of these areas.

He added that the sports had to be shown to the world in the best possible way through broadcast and digital technology.

He summed up by saying "it is the product itself and also how the product is shown using the digital platform."

Responding to a leading question about Kiteboarding being an event in Tokyo, McConnell referenced that the IOC would be looking at its success and interaction with youth at the Youth Olympic Games, but stopped short of its inclusion in Tokyo, instead saying that they looked forward to the discussion with World Sailing on the subject.

He added that IOC was open to competition formats - be they race or freestyle. "The main things around the formats are that they have to have credibility at the end of the day. If you are competing for an Olympic medal, you have to have a competition format what's happening in the world championships and the formats outside the Olympic Games. It has to have credibility inside the Olympic Games, but it is something that we are very open to being innovative about," he added.

Olympic harbour Marina da Gloria, Rio de Janerio  - Day 9 - photo © Richard Gladwell <a" />
Most of the 40 points in the IOC's Agenda2020 relates to reducing the cost of bidding and staging the Olympic games - Olympic harbour Marina da Gloria, Rio de Janerio - Day 9 - photo © Richard Gladwell

He stressed that before a format could be used inside the Olympic Games, it had to be tested outside the Olympic competition. He also noted how events could be "showcased" outside the competition program.

"We would be open to having the discussion about how we could use the games to showcase other elements including Kiteboarding inside an Olympic program - for showcasing purposes within the Olympic venues."

We are very open to new events coming into the Olympic program or for showcasing purposes. "Again we are very open to ideas in this area where World sailing may want to propose to use elements of showcasing around the Olympic competition, which highlight other forms of the sport, or new ideas within the sport, and using the Olympic Games to reach the widest possible audiences for those innovations.

Regarding numbers, McConnell said there was a fixed athlete quota across all the sports (approximately 10,500 although Tokyo will exceed that by approximately 100 athletes) - any changes had to be done within that framework. The show-casing opportunities are separate to that and are not included in that quota, he added.

The take-out from McConnell's comments is that the IOC make it clear that they own their product and will only allow that product to be altered in a proven and tested manner, and they will do this in conjunction with the respective International Federation.

They will now allow experimental events in the Summer Olympics that are either not in the external competition for that discipline or have not been "show-cased" another term for the old demonstration events.

This creates a degree of difficulty with many of the new options for events - such as relays, events where two competitors scores in a mixed event are added to compile a team score, offshore racing in the Olympic context would also appear to be in the same category.

As a minimum, any such events unless they are already mainstream competition, would have to be agreed with the IOC to be demonstration/show-case events in 2020 as a preliminary to inclusion in 2024.

The big hole in World Sailing's Olympic package is their television coverage - which McConnell makes clear is the Sport's responsibility package and to have shown at its best. Currently only the flat water inshore course racing is shown live using studio commentators. There seems to be little cross-over from the coverage or learning from the America's Cup and Volvo Ocean Race to the Olympic events - both of which attract good audiences when a free to air distribution model is used.

Fleet splits just after the start - Womens 470 medal Race, Rio Olympivs - photo © Richard Gladwell <a" />
Fleet splits just after the start - Womens 470 medal Race, Rio Olympics - photo © Richard Gladwell

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