Paris 2024: Standing by for Plan B

Published on April 15th, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The letter dated April 14 from World Sailing President Quanhai Li and CEO David Graham sent to the World Sailing Council members implicitly said not to share its contents to the media, which explains why recipients of the letter soon sent it out to the media. Scuttlebutt got two of them.

Interesting how dissension within the ranks leads to leaks of leadership.

The context of the letter was bad news for those eager to see the new Mixed Two-Person Offshore event as one of the ten sailing medals on offer at the Paris 2024 Olympics. It turns out this idea, bold and full of optimism, was not sitting well with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that were worried about:

• Field of play security scope and complexity.
• Broadcast cost and complexity.
• World Sailing not having the opportunity to deliver an offshore world championship.

The IOC had given World Sailing until May 31 to address concerns, but on April 12 had sent World Sailing an update that indicted how it was looking highly unlikely the event would be approved. With the risk of losing the tenth medal, World Sailing needs a Plan B.

To address this issue, and to gain international consensus, a Townhall Meeting on April 16 for all the member nations will be held to address how to move forward. A new proposal for the tenth event was needed and had to meet the IOC’s criteria framework of:

• The proposal must be in line with the IOC’s “Olympic Agenda 2020 + 5”, including relevance to youth, innovation, global reach and participation of the best athletes.
• Full gender equality both in terms of number of disciplines and sailors (eg alternative mix disciplines or division of currently approved disciplines into a female and male discipline)
• Prioritize global reach and maximize the accessibility of the sport.
• The discipline should have been tested previously at respective world championships organized by World Sailing.
• The discipline should not lead to an increase in the overall cost and complexity of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee, the National Olympic Committees and / or the national federations, specifically in the direct comparison with the sailing program as a whole in Tokyo 2020.
• Existing track areas should be used.

It was of some strain at the 2018 World Sailing Annual Conference to have finalized the Paris 2024 sailing program, as the IOC had presented many new conditions, and these were being overlaid on the events and equipment used for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. The offshore event, while presenting many challenges, was a savvy solution on many levels.

However, the challenge again is to find this final piece of the puzzle, as the nine other events the IOC has already approved for Paris 2024 have an equal number of men and women, so this tenth event must seemingly be mixed to maintain that balance. Standing by for wisdom from World Sailing.

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