The International Olympic Committee has complete control over the Olympic Games and they make the rules by which the sports can participate. ISAF must adhere to these constraints as the World Governing Body for Sailing.
As must all the other 28 International Federations.
The IOC can delete sports, disciplines and events at their discretion and there is a major reassessment going on now. The IOC are attacking 18 sports which include the deletion from the Olympic Program of Baseball, Softball, Modern Pentathlon, Lightweight Rowing, Synchronised Swimming, 3-Day Equestrian, Race Walking.
The IOC wants the deletion of Keelboats and to reduce the total number of sailors from 400 to 360.
IOC wants no more than 10,500 athletes, 28 sports and 300 events for the future Olympic Games.
ISAF, along with the other federations, is fighting the reductions on behalf of the sailors.
IOC makes the rules, which they can change whenever they want and then delegates all technical aspects of the Games to the relevant International Sports Governing Body, such as ISAF, including authorization of the National Olympic Committee's (NOC) entries. The specific athletes sent are totally in the domain of the NOC not the MNA or ISAF or the Class.
ISAF has always had the right to change the Class Rules as the class chosen is only the equipment to be used. Usually the ISAF Olympic Rules are the same as the classes but not always especially with regard to advertising, format, entries and nationality.
Up until the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, the sports were very free to do what they wanted with no limitation on entries.
A few classes have resisted any change because of their long-standing traditions.
After Barcelona 1992, the IOC had to initiate very tight restrictions on the number of athletes so as to stop the explosion of entries. Each sport was given a maximum number and each NOC was also given strict quotas on the number of athletes they could enter.
Which athletes the NOC sends or from what sport is totally in their domain as long as they meet the total IOC allocated quota. There are two exceptions:
- The Host Nation - who is allowed an automatic entry in every event.
- USA who is allowed to enter their athletes in all events with no overall USOC quota.
Therein lies the problem, as the USA sailors especially in the Star and Laser Class do not understand the difficulties all other MNA's have in getting sailors to the Games.
The MNA's are challenged to have their sailors meet very strict NOC criteria competing against athletes from other sports in their country for the honour to go to the Games.
The NOC generally puts a high priority on where their sailors finish in the World Championships in the 18 months before the Games. Therefore these Worlds are extremely important and ISAF must ensure that "Fair Play" and the integrity of the sport is respected. The NOC criteria for their athletes, in most developed countries, is much more stringent than the ISAF Qualification.
An example is that a Canadian sailor could qualify for the Olympic Games in the Laser Class, by being 40th at the Qualification Regatta, Laser but because he did not meet the NOC criteria of finishing in the top 15 would not be sent. Germany, Switzerland, Italy and other countries require that their sailors must finish in the top 10 or their NOC will not send the sailor.
However, a USA sailor only has to be 40th and then beat the other Americans in their private trials.
For the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, USA, ISAF had to initiate a Qualification system under the new IOC restrictions to get the total number of sailors down to 443. Led by the USA there was instituted an ISAF Olympic Qualification System, decided on the water and in conjunction with the Class World Championship as that is where there should be proper measurement and Race Management. ISAF embraced the request, as most NOC's use the athlete's result in the World Championships in many sports to decide which athletes they send.
The IOC then, without notice, reduced the total number of sailors to 400 for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
The Star Class was deleted from the Sydney Olympics by an open democratic vote of ISAF Council. Due to some interesting manoeuvring, the IOC reinstated the Star. The addition of the Star meant that ISAF now had 11 Events with the same 400 entries. We had to cut back the entries in other classes so as to accommodate the 32 Star sailors. Many MNA's were upset because it meant that classes they compete in were cut back by the reinsertion of the Star Class. ISAF also had to ensure that the cost of the Games would not go up by the addition of the Star. Therefore, ISAF allowed the use of Team Boats instead of making the 2000 Organising Committee supply such equipment, plus ISAF proposed other cost cutting initiatives which saved US$500,000. It is ISAF that had to solve this not the classes.
During this same period the MNA's and NOC's escalated their funding and support of national teams including paying sailors, buying equipment, hiring coaches and team support people, supplying team boats and on and on. The MNA's receive funding based on how their sailors do at International Olympic Class events. The pressures have become immense and are escalating exponentially.
ISAF must meet these challenges and cannot delegate this responsibility.
The IOC has demanded that each sport qualification process be above reproach and that it is totally controlled by the relevant International Governing Body, who in turn must be accountable for the process.
The problems that had to be solved for the 2004 Olympic Regatta qualification process were as follows:
- Mistral, 49er, Tornado have similar systems to the one now in place so there is little problem in these classes.
- Laser Standard is the Olympic Rig. The Laser Class does not have a separate designation for the 4.7 and Radial membership so they are all lumped together to allocate entries at the World Championships for the Olympic equipment, which is not acceptable.
- Laser, Finn, Europe, Yngling and 470 use memberships in each country which are not easily verified. So if a wealthy country wants more entries at a Worlds, they could buy inflated memberships which is unfair to the less affluent MNA's.
- Europe, Yngling and 470 lump all the boats, men and women, in the country together to allocate entries. This means there is no separate criteria for the Women's Olympic Class. The new ISAF system solves this.
- The Star has a fleet and district system and isolated entries arbitrarily allocated. Some Star sailors have complained about bogus fleets and the large number allowed from two countries.
The major problem is that the classes want to control the entries and not be beholden to the relevant MNA, as they believe they represent the sailors not the MNA. The Laser Class is working constructively to solve the conflict and they will.
The ISAF new entry system allows the previous World Champion a bye as is usual in the Class rules. The Star Class has a rule allowing a bye to all previous winners. If that was allowed for the Star then it appears that the number of entries required from the USA and other large countries would be solved. ISAF will consider this as they won on the water and are not arbitrary or manipulated.
The first issue addressed was imposed for Atlanta which was that each country must have as their right 1 entry in the Class Worlds and now that has been increased to 2. The fleet and district system did not allow that each MNA had an entry. The number of boats allowed in each class for Cadiz is very similar to what has been the case in their last Worlds.
The contracts with the Olympic Classes must become more clear and expanded as the pressures escalate. ISAF must have the right to adjust the contracts so as to react to the demands of the IOC when required. ISAF has no choice but to act, as we are responsible for providing a level playing field for all sailors from all ISAF MNA's. ISAF does not force a class to be Olympic. The Classes choose to apply and if they are chosen they must respond to the Olympic obligations which in some cases erodes their autonomy.
ISAF is responsible for the Governance of World Sailing and the Member National Authorities are delegated that governance in their respective countries.
Paul Henderson, ISAF President