Watching the Paris 2024 program unfold

Published on May 13th, 2021

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The Seinfeld show aired for nine seasons, and is now in syndication. They don’t need to be watched in order to be entertained, but if the World Sailing saga to select the event program for the Paris 2024 Olympics was a weekly show, if you missed one episode, you’d be lost.

The details are so deep in the weeds, but this doesn’t stop the blogosphere from pontificating. Online platforms and social media have hosted more ranting about the Paris events than can be remembered. World Sailing is a lost organization, they say.

With ten medals for sailing, there is an argument to keep all events the same forever. The 100 meter dash has been 100 meters for a long time, but sailing is rooted in evolution, which explains the 48 different boat types that have been used since the 1896 Games.

While changes in the past have not always been easily explained, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined new requirements for Paris 2024, and all Olympic sports needed to check their event programs to ensure conformity.

Front and center was full gender equality on the number of events and athlete quotas. Sailing has never had it, but now must. For Tokyo 2020, the Finn was tilting the scale toward the men, with all other events either mixed or paired up with similar equipment. The iconic Finn Class, in the Olympics since 1952, had a problem.

At the 2018 World Sailing Mid-Year meeting, the solution was the Mixed One-Person Dinghy event. The what event? This is the kind of solution that comes from committee, but it was an effort to keep the Finn in the Olympics. However, nobody could describe it. The Finn Class didn’t try, and nowhere else in the sport was a relay type event prevalent.

With dying support for this event idea, a late submission was made six months later at the 2018 World Sailing Annual Meeting for the Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore event. It checked all the boxes the dinghy event couldn’t, fulfilling the IOC’s objectives while showcasing a growing segment of sailing. Bingo!

The IOC was also eager to see each Olympic sport demonstrate unique formats, and having ten sailing events on the same windward-leeward course was not what they wanted. While the execution of the offshore event had holes to fill, it also offered an opportunity for sailing.

But now removed from the Olympics, the Finn Class was offended. How could a boat for larger people, with such history, with so many iconic sailors get eliminated? As I witnessed the event selection process, the Finn was the square peg for a round hole, with skilled people trying to get it to fit.

While their effort was valiant, the blogosphere now cries blasphemy.

However, as much as Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore event fit the IOC mold, the pandemic removed needed time to prove it, and now the IOC wants additional options for the 10th medal.

World Sailing has navigated their processes, with the alternatives to the keelboat event being to either continue with a Men’s and Women’s Two Person Dinghy event (470 Class) as will be held at Tokyo 2020 or introduce the Men’s and Women’s Kiteboarding event (Formula Kite Class).

The Events Committee, which advises on the type of events to be held in the Olympics, likes the Two Person Dinghy option, while the Equipment Committee, which advises on the type of boats to be used in the Olympics, likes the Kiteboarding option.

These recommendation will now go to World Sailing’s Council who will meet on May 14 to decide the order of these two alternative event proposals to submit ahead of the IOC deadline, which is May 26, 2021.

There remains hope the Mixed Two Person Keelboat Offshore Event is approved, encouraged by recommendations made by Matt Allen (AUS), Chair of the Oceanic & Offshore Committee, who presented a paper which outlined potential amendments to the Event to address the concerns from the IOC.

While what occurs at the Olympics may not touch many in our sport, there are those around the world who have committed their lives, but now with just three years from Paris 2024, are wondering whether the investment they have made will have a podium to sail toward.

A final decision from the IOC on the Paris 2024 sailing program may occur at their Executive Board Meeting on June 8-10, 2021. Until then, standing by…

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