The Olympic Games is the culmination of years of hard work for the hundreds of athletes who participate in the World's most high profile multi sport event.
For sailors the Olympic Sailing Competition is no different, every athlete having trained hard for immense periods leading up to the Games.
All this preparation on the part of the sailors, coaches, Member National Authorities and National Olympic Committees is simply for a two-week long regatta held every four years, and for all the difference between success and failure in this pinnacle competition for sailors can come down to single races and single decisions.
It is doubtful that there is a sailing fanatic in the world who does not remember the epic last race battle between Ben AINSLIE (GBR) and Robert SCHEIDT (BRA) in the single-handed dinghy Open at Sydney 2000, but few know that the seed of this battle was planted four years earlier in Atlanta 1996.
Both sailors, at both Olympic Games were using their knowledge of the ISAF Racing Rules OF Sailing (RRS) to score an advantage over their opponents. In Atlanta, Ben became a victim of being judged OCS at the start of the final race, whilst in Sydney, Robert was disqualified in that final race for failing to give the other boat room to keep clear.
Both Ainslie's and Scheidt's confidence in the RRS, and in the system that supports them, meant the difference between a Gold and a Silver medal at both events. When it came down to the protest committee, it was members of the International Jury who ultimately decided the awarding of those medals.
In recent years, and increasingly more so in the sailing competition, those decisions are in the eyes of the world media. Athletes have worked so hard to reach this level of competition that it is the responsibility of all those involved in the organisation to ensure that that competition is the best run in the world.
For ISAF, ATHOC and the army of volunteers now based in the Agios Kosmas Sailing Centre, 2004 is no different. A finely tuned organisational system from the measurement of boats, to the removal of trolleys from the slipway, has been tested over a number of years.
ISAF, in it's structure of training, educating and qualifying race officials, have ensured that the highest level of decision making, standard throughout the world, is maintained. ATHOC has employed organisers with the highest level of local knowledge and authority who, with the assistance of ISAF training and education, have been tested through no less than two regattas prior to the start of the first race on 14 August 2004.
ISAF has appointed 52 International Technical Officials who will be going to Athens in August. As well as the ISAF officials, there are 58 competition organisers employed by ATHOC, as well as the Competition management.
The Competition management team is headed by Dimitrios ALEVIZAKIS, and includes Administration Manger Constantinos TSANTILIS, Technical Operations Manager Lisa STATHATOU and Results Manager Anastasia PAPAGIANNOPOLOU. The Field Of Play manager is Evangelos ROMEOS.
The 52 ISAF Appointed officials, and 58 ATHOC officials cover four separate areas of the event administration.
The technical aspects of the sport, as laid down by the IOC, are the responsibility of the International Federation and as such ISAF have 10 International Measurers who are class specific, assisted by 11 National class measurers from Greece overseeing that process prior to racing commencing. They are supported by the ISAF measurement committee, which consists of four senior measurers and two ISAF staff, under the direction of Chief measurer Jean-Paul MARMIER (SUI). As well as ensuring that all class rules are adhered to strictly, the measurement team also have the power to change any class rules both before and during the competition.
During races, measurers will be present within each course area to ensure that, following the initial allocation of boats and boards, or initial check measurement, no team are in breach of measurement rules during the Competition. They have the final say when it comes to any breaches of measurement rules.
The Jury in Athens is wholly appointed by ISAF and includes members from 24 countries. All members of the International Jury have the title of "International Judge" (IJ), a position appointed by ISAF for a period of four years and one in which the highest level of consistency is achieved worldwide through a programme of education, examination and development. Every member of the jury has vast international experience and has sat on the jury at a number of the highest level Olympic Classes Regattas. Seven protest officers from Greece assist them in their roles.
The Jury primarily has two roles: The first is to observe the adherence to the Racing Rules of Sailing and to arbitrate and decide any protests that arise alleging breaches of these rules between athletes; and secondly the on-water observance of athletes in relation to Rule 42.
Rule 42 can make or break a championship. This "Kinetics" rule allows and disallows certain body movements in the boat, which can cause the boat to go faster than would otherwise be the case simply by using the action of the wind and water. If adjudged to have breached this rule, an athlete can be "yellow flagged". If an infringement is signalled by the on-water jury with a yellow flag, the athlete must immediately do a 720-degree turn. If he or she is caught for a second time in the competition then they must retire from that particular race; a third time, it's game over, red card, and end of Olympics. The International Jury has a huge responsibility on its hands.
As well as the jury and the measurement team, there is a huge team of course officials, who run the actual races, set the start lines, courses, marks, exclusion zones, and timing. An in-depth local knowledge is vital in these roles, which are primarily covered by the ATHOC Field Of Play officials who have been training at the venue and on the field of play for the last two years. There are 38 Field of Play officials, covering the four courses and includes; race officers, assistant race officers, course layers, timing specialists and a host of other officials. The course areas themselves are tightly controlled and only accredited boats are allowed within buoyed exclusion zones. These are patrolled and controlled by ATHOC Marshals and the Hellenic Coast Guard.
Eight ISAF course representatives who advise and ensure that the technical aspects of each race are met as set out in the RRS assist the ATHOC Field Of Play officials.
All aspects of the Olympic Sailing Competition, and the technical side of the organisation are the responsibility of the International Sailing Federation, and the Technical Delegation is headed by Goran PETERRSON (SWE) and Jerome PELS (ISAF), whose role it is to lead the close working relationship between ISAF, ATHOC and the army of volunteers, to create the best Olympic Sailing Competition ever.