Sailing Under Review for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Published on August 23rd, 2016

Carlo Croce (ITA), President of World Sailing since 2013, spoke with Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck during the final week of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games…


Carlo Croce

General observations of these Games.
Much better than expected, both on the water and on the shore. I think in the end, the result was very, very good.

We have heard from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that social media attendance is six times higher than London 2012, which is good. They told us they’re going to come with full results of this after the game, but they were exited, not just for sailing, for all the sports.

What’s good news for us is that Sailing is absolutely within the average of all sports. We want people to know we exist, and I think we’re quite happy of the result in the end. The wind in Rio has been decent and racing has been fair 90% of the time, which is quite good. You have the odd day at every venue. Overall, Rio has been good.

Any changes going forward?
To me, one of the questions I have is if the Medal Race is the answer. I have no answer to that but I have a question mark, because I think if you look at the results, sometimes – because I had two very good Italian teams going badly in the Medal Race – I don’t want people to think it’s for this.

I’ve always been doubtful about the Medal Race, and if you look at people coming to the Medal Race after 10 or 12 races in first position and in a Medal Race of 15 minutes, they drop to sixth in the final standings. I’m not sure, certainly they have been doing mistakes; this is their own fault, of course. Nobody’s fault – not the committee, the race committee or anything – but maybe we should find a better way.

Of course, this is what the IOC wants; they want a show. But we need to have a show without losing our soul, though. The balance is difficult.

With the Medal Race course so close to shore for spectating, the winds can be fickle.
I was looking at the people on the beach, at the ticketed spectating venue, and even if the finishing line is a 150 yards from them, they look at the broadcast screen. They don’t look at the actual race, so if you move it 300 yards outside, it doesn’t make any difference. This is the lesson we need to learn, I think. Of course, with people screaming it was fun, but something is wrong. I think you should protect a little more all the long days of racing up to the Medal Race. I don’t have the answer, but I think we should really consider that seriously.


And what about the events for the 2020 Games?
We decided to ask our members to vote for what we call the unlock vote, which meant we had to unlock the decision taken four years ago to keep the same Olympic events from the 2016 Games to the 2020 Games. We were pushed hard by the IOC to move forward to a more spectacular program, and they just give you – very quickly- two figures: 10,500 athletes in Rio and in London. This is the number they don’t want to change. There will be five new sports in Tokyo and six current sports under review, not for pushing them out, but to look what they can do for improving, and sailing is amongst the six.

So when they tell you this, and look you in the face, how do you answer? What is the answer? It’s not easy. So we said we want to unlock, but we have no idea about changes for the moment. It’s a World Sailing Council decision which will be voted on. This will take time, because IOC wants us to get all the audience numbers. We have appointed an outside company to be counting audience numbers for each event, which will help advise us. Then we will come back with the proposal to the Council, which will not occur at our annual conference in November, but probably more like in February, and then we take a decision.

I think in November we will be able to announce good news to the Council, but at the moment we’re still confidential because the IOC has not yet formally decided. Maybe kiteboard, maybe foiling boat… I don’t know. Perhaps an old hobby of mine – a long distance race with very simple and basic one design boats with no extreme equipment.

We could pick up one man and a girl and put them in an offshore boat… just a personal thought. I am completely convinced we’d find someone who can find provide the boats to the Olympics free of charge. It could also be a way for people competing in a dinghy class to also participate in the offshore race and compete for two medals, which our sport never had. That could be interesting.

But nothing is decided. It’s not me who will decides; it will be the Council. Certainly there will be changes, but what I want to really say is we will do absolutely the minimum changes we can not to have people throwing away all of their boats and our member nations being in trouble. So the changes yes, but just the minimum we need to. Our member nations have to design a program of four years, so we need to be quick.

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