Paris 2024: IOC gives World Sailing six weeks notice for 2024 Olympic events
by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World.com/nz Apr 15, 2021 12:10 UTC
April 16, 2021
World Sailing’s Council at the Mid-Year Meeting in London, Great Britain, Sunday May 19, 2019 © Daniel Smith
Kit McConnell – IOC Sports Director © Philippe Woods
The International Olympic Committee has given World Sailing six weeks to propose alternative events to the controversial Mixed Offshore Keelboat proposed for the 2024 Olympic Sailing Regatta in Marseille, France.
The letter should come as no surprise to World Sailing, as the issues of choice and indeed the entire 2024 Olympic slate have been known and largely ignored since the May 2018 mid-year meeting in London when the 2024 events were proposed with equipment. (classes) to be selected at the annual meeting in Sarasota, Florida. Two of these events were a “Mixed One Person Dinghy” and a “Mixed Kite”. In both events, it was proposed to have two athletes competing in two boats/boards for a solo medal.
Although it was claimed that it was possible for kites to come up with a relay format that would be viable for two athletes to compete as one for a single event medal, this was apparently not possible for the one-person mixed dinghy. In November 2018, a late and urgent Board submission dropping the mixed one-person dinghy and inserting a mixed two-person offshore keelboat event passed by a single vote at the Events Committee level (7 for, 6 against and 3 abstentions) then actually adopted. in a controversial voting procedure six months later at the World Sailing Council meeting in Sarasota, Florida.
The letter, dated April 12, 2021, from IOC Sporting Director Kit McConnell to the President of World Sailing says in part “Preliminary analysis of the details provided around offshore indicated the following challenges which were the subject of the review mandated by the Olympic Program Commission:
- Safety, scope and complexity of the playing field
- Cost and complexity of dissemination
- World Sailing not having the opportunity to deliver a World Offshore Championship
“Therefore, as we aim to complete the full assessment of Mixed Offshore to address the above points, we are asking World Sailing to provide alternative events for the 10th event of the Sailing program.
“This proposal is essential to ensure that, whatever the outcome of the Offshore Evaluation, the IOC Executive Board will be able to finalize the program of events for sailing at its meeting on June 8, 2021, as well as the decisions pending on events and competition formats across other sports for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.”
In the event that World Sailing proposes several options, the IOC has requested that these be prioritized and justified.
It is understood that World Sailing has already had at least one opportunity to allay concerns around the Mixed Offshore event with the IOC. It is clear that these explanations did not succeed, but the IOC continues its evaluation of the 10th event.
World Sailing now finds itself in the awkward position of having to come up with a plan B, and probably a plan C, to maintain a 10th Olympic sailing regatta in Marseille and Long Beach in 2028.
It is clear from the last sentence of the IOC quoted above that failing to propose an acceptable list of events, the 10th sailing event will be integrated into all the Olympic events of Paris 2024, which will give the possibility of reduce the athlete entry quota for sailing, or that the IOC take action to achieve its long-term goal of reducing overall athlete numbers and costs.
In 2012, the number of athletes allowed for sailing was set at 400, but only 380 positions were filled. This quota was further reduced as the athlete quota for sailing was not met in 2016 – a situation created by Member National Authorities refusing to select sailors – even for the places they had won in the first qualifying round. The quota of sailing athletes for 2020 has been reduced to 350 sailors and will be 330 for 2024.
While the IOC meeting will take place on June 8, World Sailing has had until May 26 to submit its proposals, which must meet six criteria defined by the IOC. One of them is that the alternative event “should have been tested beforehand at the respective world championships organized by World Sailing”. This requirement is also in the World Sailing regulations for Olympic class selection, but has been conveniently ignored by the world body.
The 2024 event process began when International Federations (of which World Sailing is a part) were asked to submit their “best” list of events – which was taken as an opportunity to change 50% of the events, and for 40% of events contested by mixed crews.
Several of the events chosen were invented and had not been contested in a recognized world championship as required by the IOC and also by World Sailings own regulations.
For a long and detailed analysis of the historical situation click here and for the reaction of IOC Vice-President Ng Ser Miang click here
The current situation is that World Sailing now has a new President and CEO and some changes in the composition of the Events Committee and the Board, which now have to make difficult decisions.
The good news is that a later decision to upgrade the RS:X’s men’s and women’s windsurfing equipment/class to a foil windsurfing board would appear to be a resounding success.
At the Oceanbridge NZL Sailing Regatta last weekend, for the Olympic and Youth classes, the foiling windsurfer attracted the most entries with 23 sailors.
The windfoilers were sailing at two and three times the wind speed in just 7-8 knots of wind, just like the AC75s had less than a month before on the same waters.
Their performance was both stunning and spectacular, and the agility of the windfoil sailboats in tacking and gybing could only be admired. Admittedly, the same problems with the AC75s coming out of their foils in a slight tack and gybe were there on Sunday with the windfoilers.
As for the kites, with only five registered – three men and two women – none showed up for the race. One was sailing with a kite the size of a small country, and that too looked spectacular in light airs. But the numbers just don’t seem to be there.
But back to the case at hand, World Sailing’s decisions for 2018 were made before COVID, and no face-to-face conferences have been possible for the world body since February 2020, and seem out of the question for a while. at least another six months.
This really only leaves the option of resolving issues via Zoom (working across time zones) which is a less than ideal means in the current situation, with very careful thought required, which can be carefully and encouraged to be challenged.
Of course, the elephant in the room is that despite all the talk of equality and universality, the 2024 Olympic slate does not have an event in which men weighing over 85kg will be competitive. But who cares about them?