Balancing Tradition and Progress

Published on August 5th, 2018

The Sailing World Championships, organized once every four years for all ten Olympic classes, is being held August 2 to 12 at Aarhus, Denmark. As it is also the first and largest country qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the 2018 event has attracted the attention of Thomas Bach (above, center), the president of the Internationals Olympic Committee. Here Bach shares some of observations about technology, Tokyo, and the future of sailing.

What are your expectation for sailing in the 2020 Tokyo (Enoshima) Olympics?
First of all I think it will be a great competition but the most important thing will be that with the technology available in Tokyo there will be a huge opportunity for sailing to make the sport more popular across the globe and to demonstrate the fascination this sport can enjoy – because with this new technology you can follow it much closer and much better than ever before.

And in terms of organisation?
With the organisation we have no worries. There is World Sailing and our Japanese friends will put up a sailing event at Olympic level in every respect, I really have no doubts. On the other hand, from the sports perspective you see the competition getting stronger and stronger. The sailors are getting closer and closer and this will add to the quality of the competition.

Looking further ahead, sailing is one of the classic Olympics sports, what is its future?
Sailing first of all is facing the same challenge as most of the Olympic sports; this about the young generation. We in sports are in competition for the time of the young generation. You need to get their attention and attract them to sport, sailing is one of the many.

The second challenge for sailing is about making a regatta more understandable, giving a better experience for the spectators and the other challenge is the always evolving programme because you have more and more classes, more and more technology, on and around the boats. Sailing is facing the same challenge like the IOC overall to find the good balance between tradition and progress also when it comes to the Olympic programme.

How well do you think these World Championships have been organised?
The most important thing is that this is a great event for the sailors. You can feel the atmosphere that they feel very much at ease here, it’s almost like being in an Olympic village where you see the competitors chatting with each other, being friends and even preparing for the competition together.

Then, with regard to the organisation, I think it’s remarkable that World Sailing, Aarhus and Denmark have built programmes with regard to sustainability. This is a benchmark project for these kind of World Championships, but also with regard to new technology which makes sailing even more popular.

World Sailing President Kim Andersen is passionate about sailing and dedicated to developing it worldwide together with the Olympic Movement. What advice can you offer him?
Keep going. Because he has started a number of excellent initiatives with regard to technology, with regard to competition format, with regard to e-sailing. So, I can only encourage him to keep going with the same passion and the same strength because developing a sport is always a work in progress. You will not come to a point where you can say: “now I’ve done my job, this is it for the next ten or twenty years.

Are you a sailor?
I am not a sailor because I grew up in region where there was not much water around. So, I had to concentrate on my fencing. But there are two things that appeal to me about sailing. First is the immediate encounter with nature and being confronted with nature always makes you humble. This is an experience which is a really appealing one. The second is about the sailors themselves and seeing how they get along with each other in the true Olympic spirit.

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The Sailing World Championships, held once every four years for all ten Olympic classes, has 1,400 sailors from 85 nations in close to 1,000 boats for competition. There are also two kiteboarding events competing, which along with the Olympic classes, have their competition staggered from August 2 to 12.

In addition to World titles, the event is the first and largest country qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with 40% of the places being decided. For information on how nations qualify for the 2020 Olympics, click here.

Source: World Sailing

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