The Case for 12 Events at Paris 2024
Published on February 20th, 2018
Guided by Olympic Agenda 2020, the International Olympic Committee’s blueprint to direct the future of the Olympic Movement, World Sailing is now tasked with ensuring each event has a ‘unique signature’ and for there to be gender equity in the program.
Jerome Samson, President of US Windsurfing and Managing Director of the International Kona Class, offers this open letter to World Sailing as the organization debates the future of Olympic Sailing.
Dear World Sailing,
Listen. I know it’s complicated. The stakes are high and it’s a thankless job. But we’re counting on you to do the right thing!
I’m talking about the 2024 Olympic events, of course. Will kites finally get in? Will you try and kick windsurfing out again – arguably the most athletic, youthful and financially viable of all events on the current Olympic sailing program? Any realistic hope of an exciting offshore event in Marseille? What of the venerable Finn? The 470?
With a fixed allowance of ten sailing events at the Olympics, the decisions you will make in the coming weeks will crush the hearts of sailors everywhere. That’s because for an event to get in, another one has to be kicked out – or so it would seem. It’s a cruel game of musical chairs that plays out every other year, with massive implications for national federations and athletes everywhere.
You’ve just spent ten years getting to the top of the snowboarding world in parallel giant slalom? Well, we’re taking it away, now go race a Super-G. Wait, that’s a bad example. But I wanted to bring it up because Ester Ledecká is a phenom, and what she did at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games is nothing short of extraordinary. Now back to sailing.
World Sailing is a big organization and it won’t win any prize for agile decision-making, but I can appreciate that the work is difficult. After all, there’s intrigue, self-interest and ulterior motives in just about every organization, big and small, and you’re far from the worse of international sports federations out there.
Most of you are unpaid volunteers doing your best with arcane regulations and under immense pressure both from your own national federations and from the sacrosanct International Olympic Committee. I know we’re asking a lot of you in exchange for a free lunch between starts on the race committee boat.
But you’re not running the Galactic Republic either. I don’t think we’re asking too much when we insist that you serve your core stakeholders (that’s the sailors, in case some of you are confused) and shine the best possible light on our sport. And at this time, the best way to do this is to expand the slate to twelve events!
One of the key strengths in our sport is its diversity – well, let’s showcase it. I can think of many different ways that a 12-event slate would be a game-changer, even if that means that each event might have to do with smaller athlete quotas.
I don’t have a crystal ball on what the IOC’s reaction might be, but I’d wager that they’d be stoked to see a modern slate with twelve exciting (athletic, youthful, media-friendly) sailing events. A slate built on the shoulders of past champions – not on their ashes.
So please be bold. Asking for more events is not pushing our luck, but rather it’s recognizing that our sport has more to offer today than it did yesterday. Isn’t that the truth? And isn’t that the message we want to send to our friends at the IOC?
Despite all the rumors, the number of events at the Games isn’t set in stone. In fact, we were supposed to have 310 events across all sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, and we’re winding up with 321. Other sports federations have been successful in their lobbying efforts, why not World Sailing?
The IOC knows a winner when it sees one. Infighting at the mid-year meeting in London and a political showdown at the annual conference in Sarasota later this year won’t do much to endear us to the IOC, regardless of the outcome. But making a concerted push for twelve events will bring out the best in us.
Now would you believe it, Ester Ledecká is a talented windsurfer too. I’m out to Pyeongchang to make sure she’ll be ready in 2024!