Continental Olympic Qualifiers and World Cup Change Will Not Achieve All the IOC Is Looking For

Posted on 03/17/12 in Sailing, 4 Comments

ISAF is making changes to the core of Olympic sailing to get better diversity in sailing.  Being responsive to the IOC request must be applauded, but lets investigate the merits of the proposals.

This major initiative ISAF is persuing to get better diversity at the Olympics is core to what ISAF does, so a lot is at stake.

Good sailors, but not diverseThe international sailing federation (ISAF) is considering altering the way Olympic berths are allocated for the 2016 games in Rio. Largely, this is a reaction to an IOC request for greater worldwide diversity in sailing.  The technique being discussed is to allocate Olympic berths not by World Championship performance, but instead by Continental Championship performance.  This technique will certainly directly address the desire to have broader participation at the Olympics but will come at a heavy cost, that being having the top sailors compete with each other at for a Gold medal at the Olympics.

Sailing has been making this compromise for a long time already by limiting each country to a single particiapant from each class.  Even if you’re the 2nd best in the world, as the British Finn sailors can attest, you won’t get your shot at glory if the guy who is number 1 is from your country.  Diversity vs. strength is a continueing and difficult question, and many strong old voices within ISAF continue to get it wrong at the core.  This initiative is not wrong at the core level, just a bit misguided at the execution level.

But lets face facts here, participation from every continent might be one way to phrase the discussion, but what we are really talking about here is limited the number of European countries participating… after all, there is no other continent coming even close to dominating any part of sailing… yet each continent can claim success at the highest level, at least in a few classes.  There are the Asian windsurfers, the Aussie/Kiwi broad teams, South American Champions catamarn and Star sailor, a boad USA team, Israeli Windsurfers, and the list goes on.

By forcing continental qualifiers, ISAF would in essence be presribing that the countries that have relatively successful sailing programs already would be easily able to pick up additonal berths accross the rest of the classes.  As team GBR can attest, once the route to success  is known, it is easier to duplicate that success in an adjascent class than it was to figure it out in the first place.

Instead, why not keep the system as it currently stands but put a % limit on the number of berths from ‘any one continent’, ie Europe.  That way, diversity will be achieved but at a much smaller cost to competition and ISAF won’t turn natural training partners against each other… other than the Europeans:(

Lets take the 49er as an example.  There has been a resurgence recently centered in North America.  Would sailing in North America be stronger if teams from the Islands, USA, Canada, and Mexico can continue to work together on a local circuit knowing that they can raise everyone’s level or if they are competing for (say) 2 berths total, and constantly fiight each other for that scarce opportunity?

If the problem is European nations dominating Olympic berths, then ISAF should address the problem directly, but limiting European participation and should not make the rules any more complicated than they need to be… otherwise unintended consequences are sure to follow.

One Comment

  1. Al clarke says:
    Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:52am

    Wow. Lots of sloppy typos. Spell check is your friend.


3 Trackbacks

  1. By igrzyska isaf olimpijskie 49er kwalifikacje on March 18, 2012 at 5:32 am
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