Gladwell's Line: Protests and revelations continue to roll on the back of the controversial decision by a 19-17 vote by the ISAF Council at the Mid-Year Meeting in early May, to select Kiteboarding as a 2016 Olympic event. The players, the sequence of events, the consequences ... (these are excerpts from a full analysis by Richard Gladwell on Sailworld.com) - the full article is worth reading.
The Kiteboard was bracketed with the Windsurfer, for selection as an event for the 2016 Olympic Games, with a decision to be made in the rarefied air of Stresa a resort on picturesque Lake Maggiore, near Milan, Italy.
Despite a recommendation of 17-2 for the retention of Windsurfing by its expert committee, the ISAF Events Committee, who considered a report from an Evaluation Team it established to trial Kiteboarding and advise on its suitability, the Council of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), the world governing body for the sport, swung the other way and in a close vote decided to promote Kiteboarding ahead of Windsurfing for the 2016 Olympics.
Immediately after the meeting the Spanish Sailing Federation President, and Council member Gerardo Pombo took responsibility and apologised for the actions of their substitute Council representative for Area E comprising Andorra, Portugal and Spain.
After publication of the voting lists, the Spanish Federation RFEV decided to issue an apology for the actions of the very experienced and highly intelligent, Gerardo Seeliger, who it was claimed by RFEV was confused by the voting system.
Gerardo Pombo (right) one of the foundation members of the Club Náutico Español de Vela - Event Media
Prior to the publication of the voting lists, the Spanish had maintained they had supported the Windsurfer according to a letter sent by five times Womens World Windsurfing Champion, Blanca Manchón to the Spanish Olympic Committee:
Seeliger is believed to have given a lengthy and passionate address in favour of the Kiteboard, so clearly alarms should have been sounding amongst his support team, if indeed he was genuinely confused.
Further Spain is a force in the Olympic windsurfing discipline, so a vote against the current Olympic event would probably have had a very significant impact on his country's Olympic medal chances in 2016.
Additionally, like many other established and developing sailing countries, the Spanish Federation had invested heavily in windsurfer development. For the RFEV with the the financial support of their Olympic Committee, this investment, had resulted in several world championship wins.
That confusion was again attacked in a tirade on Spanish TV news , by Blanca Manchón, who is also a former ISAF Sailor of the Year, when she verbally launched at the Spanish Federation. The same RFEV who was last in the international headlines for their endorsement of the Club Nautico de Vela – a paper yacht club they helped establish, and whose doubtful challenge for the America’s Cup triggered a three year in the New York Supreme Court.
The other two countries in Area E, Portugal and Andorra have not come out with official comment on the vote of their representative; however it is believed that Portugal supported the status quo – the retention of Windsurfing.
Next up was the letter from the Venezuelan Federation of Sail, disassociating itself from the vote of one of its nationals, ISAF Vice President Teresa Lara.
Venezuela is bundled into Area O in the ISAF Council and has two representatives, one from the Cayman Islands and the other from the Dominican Republic. Of the 22 countries in the Group, only two, Cuba (1948) and Bahamas (1956) have won Olympic medals.
Asian and Indian reaction.
Since May, the flurried reaction has not diminished. The Councillor for Area K, which contains India and Singapore and six other nations, voted for the Kiteboard. The Board Sailing Association of India claims that the Yachting Association of India instructed the Councillor, Ajay Balram, that they wished to maintain the status quo, in other words – Vote for the Windsurfer.
Then came the turn of Singapore’s TP Low, another ISAF Vice President. Low has been attacked by the President of the Windsurfing Association Singapore (WAS), claiming in an email in mid-June that Low did not consult the Singapore Sailing Federation and WAS before making his decision.
Tim Khoo, President of WAS writes ‘WAS and SSF stand firmly behind Windsurfing as we have put a lot of time, effort and money into training our windsurfers, in the hope that they will peak for the 2016 Olympics. Audrey Young is a product of this program and she won a Bronze medal in the Inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010. Kiting on the other hand has no program in place, nor will there be plans to train 'sailors' (sic) for this event. There is not even a Kitesurfing (sic) Association in Singapore.'
ISAF Council under the spotlight
ISAF Council - ISAF Annual Conference 2010 - ISAF ©
If proven to be correct, the allegations made, call into serious question the process of the ISAF decision making process at Council level. One error is perhaps understandable but the extent of this level of disconnection at the top echelon of the ISAF decision making process is not.
That concern is mirrored by the decision of the ISAF Events Committee who recommended by a vote of 17-2 in favour of the retention of the Windsurfer for the 2016 Olympics, but supported bringing kiteboarding into the ISAF World Cup circuit from 2013.
The reactions of the affected Associations is expected to made known in a number of ways – by direct repudiation of their representatives as RFEV has done. There may be some sanction imposed on what some might consider rogue Councillors by their regions and/or national bodies as Venezuela have done. Or there may be some names missing, when the ISAF Council and Vice Presidents are nominated in November, for the coming four years.
Of the three notional ISAF Presidential candidates only one Carlo Croce (ITA), a substitute for Councillor Sergio Gaibisso (ITA) Group D, voted the Windsurfer.
Of the other two, Puerto Rican, Eric Tulla, one of seven ISAF Vice Presidents voted for the Kiteboard. David Kellett (AUS) is ISAF Treasurer and does not have a vote.
The next meeting of the ISAF will be in Ireland in November.
But this is an issue that will not go away.
by Richard Gladwell