IOC Olympic Channel

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I read the news on Wednesday, oh boy - 95 words precisely, in my newspaper at least, on those 40 landmark Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations.

'What is wrong with these people?' I thought. 'Don't they recognise the importance of a sports movement powerful enough to redraw the map of London?'

Then I reflected: if you take the 40 recommendations at face value, 95 words is probably about what they are worth for a mainstream news organisation.

A blueprint to make bidding for and staging the Olympic Games a slightly less daunting, slightly less costly process, and to inject slightly more flexibility into the way the sports programme is chosen, is hardly calculated to set pulses racing around the breakfast tables of Peoria or Antananarivo.

Even the most eye-catching proposal - recommendation 19: "The International Olympic Committee (IOC) to launch an Olympic Channel" - is something it should have done years ago.

The proposals, if passed next month, will pave the way for some useful innovations, but Thomas Bach's five-ring revolution it ain't.

I don't blame the IOC President for this.

As his compatriot Otto von Bismarck observed, politics is the art of the possible.

It would be disastrous for Bach, little more than a year into his tenure, were he to advocate a truly radical series of reforms and then get shot down in flames.

Furthermore, whatever may have been written in recent months as the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics has disintegrated before our eyes, the Olympic model is far from broken.


The Movement generated more than $8 billion (£5 billion/€6.5 billion) from broadcasting, sponsorship, ticketing and licensing in the four year cycle culminating with the London 2012 Games.

What is true is that the broadcasting and international sponsorship revenues that play such an important part in funding National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and International Sports Federations (IFs) are set to pause for breath in the 2013-2016 quadrennium.

Instead, the main engine of growth looks set to be local sponsorship - but these proceeds are earmarked chiefly for the countries where the Games are staged, in this case Russia and Brazil.

So there is no crisis - but what is also self-evident, at least to me, is that the Movement has a structural problem that these recommendations will do, to use the technical term, diddly-squat to address.

The structural problem is that the Winter Games is not a global event because vast sweeps of the globe scarcely ever experience snow and ice.

So as a marketing platform for host countries they are far less powerful than their Summer counterpart.

And yet the hassle factor for the host population is nearly as great.

The solution is obvious.

No, nothing to do with the Jamaican bobsled team.

They should simply move some indoor disciplines with fans in lands where the water never freezes from the bursting-at-the-seams Summer Games to Winter.

Volleyball, for me, would be one strong candidate to make the switch; boxing another.

And why not offer sports, such as squash and karate, which have been battering at Lausanne's door in a so far unsuccessful attempt to get into the Olympics, the opportunity to join the Winter programme?

You get some idea of why Agenda 2020 has steered clear of this sort of thing, if you remember what happened to poor old Brian new-kid-on-the-block Cookson, President of the International Cycling Union (UCI), when he had the temerity earlier this year to suggest something similar.

"Let's think about the Winter Olympics," Cookson said. "Why does it have to be snow and ice?

"If you have a problem with Summer Olympics where the whole thing is perceived as overheated with too many facilities, too many sports, too many competitors and so on, why not look at moving some of the other sports indoors that traditionally take place in the northern hemisphere winter?

"Why not look at combat sports like judo, or other indoor sports like badminton?

"You could even say what about putting track cycling in the Winter Olympics?"

I agree with almost every word of that; yet poor old Cookson ended up having to apologise to International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer - and I can see why - for talking about sports other than cycling.

But if Agenda 2020 is not a suitable forum for giving such ideas a serious airing, you have to wonder what is.

The Winter Games has, I think, one other shot at gingering up interest in its rather jaded concept and producing a more competitive race for 2026, and that is if there is a strong southern hemisphere candidate.

But that would be a short-term fix.

The fundamental problem - that the cost-benefit analysis is not nearly as attractive as for a Summer Games while you do not have a genuinely global product - will remain.

Don't get me wrong: there are a fair few things in these 40 recommendations that it will be good to have: non-discrimination on sexual orientation as a fundamental principle; stronger relationships with organisations managing sport for people with different abilities; proper ceremonies for athletes who win medals after the event as a consequence of disqualifications; an insistence that Olympic Movement organisations comply with basic principles of good governance (though there is nothing about what the consequences would be if they don't).

But there is much that seems vague (recommendation 28 on the key issue of autonomy); little flashes of the old self-indulgence (is it really necessary to spell out quite so baldly that "the field of play for the athletes to always be state-of-the-art for all competitions"?); and the odd line that is plain silly (is the IOC's "ultimate goal" really "to protect clean athletes", as recommendation 15 would have it? I'm not saying that's not important, but I'd have thought its "ultimate goal" was to organise outstanding Games).

The other short-term problem that I fancy the IOC may now face is that if the mainstream media judges the content of Agenda 2020 to be worth only 95 words of its real estate, it may focus instead on where next month's Session, at which the members will pass their verdict, is taking place.

Monte Carlo, with its casino and luxury car showrooms, is a delightful place; but it is not necessarily the ideal backdrop for an organisation at present struggling to convince people that it is in tune with these waste-averse, exceptionally cost-conscious times.

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If you look in the thesaurus for the word sport, you will find words such as pastime, entertainment, amusement and diversion.

There are many dedicated people putting in a lot of time and energy to deliver the benefits that can come through sport. But they are becoming disheartened. Their enthusiasm is waning in the face of many problems, fraudulent statements, lies, speculation and things going wrong. Negative attacks take on a life of their own and live on.

Love and passion provide the impetus for not giving up, but at some point the reality that love and passion aren’t hard currency that can buy groceries or pay the bills hits home. Then the question as to why am I doing this? How do those who have to deal with the demoralising frustrations keep some semblance of sanity, faith and trust?

Sport is embraced by almost everyone, including politicians and business leaders. The adulation when our elite level athletes and national teams do well can be described as awesome.

Dr Roy Mc Cree in a paper entitled The Exclusion of Sport from Caribbean Economic Development, made the point that historically sport has been excluded from official and dominant notions of economic development in the Caribbean and that the factors for that exclusion represent the colonial derived, received or orthodox view of sport.

If you said sport in T&T is facing an uncertain future you would not be taken seriously. However, it is a reality that sport is struggling. For the majority of sport organisations and governing bodies the last year has been the most difficult period financially for quite a while and it’s not going to get better.

National sport organisations and governing bodies must plan for all outcomes including the best case scenario and the worst case. What’s even more important is being able to make rational and objective decisions that are in the best interest of sport.

When sport is running on financial fumes it tends to bring out the worse in everyone. As national sport organisations and national governing bodies’ battle on a daily basis to sustainably develop sport, they have to keep looking in the mirror before looking out of the window.

Significant achievements have never been obtained by taking small risks on unimportant issues.

National sport organisations and national governing bodies, including the TTOC, can no longer avoid championing and advocating for sport from a capital accumulation and economic development perspective.

We spend too much time, effort and attention on stuff that isn’t beneficial or sustainable.  It’s time to shift the focus from solving problems to recognising opportunities.

From a strategic and policy perspective it’s about being proactive, staying abreast of what’s happening and using the opportunity to shape and create a sustainable future for sport.

It’s not just spin.

Many sport stakeholders are pulling their punches or hesitating to express their views. They have become tentative and overly focused on being politically correct- avoiding confronting sensitive issues or making waves.

We have to stop tiptoeing around significant issues.

How do we grow exponential the economic footprint of sport?

Who is willing to bet on sport as an economic game changer? How do we rectify the valid concerns and obviate the failure to embrace the economic development and transformation of sport in T&T.

Why are we missing the boat or is there something more sinister at play?

It’s time to tear down the wall of opposition and resistance to the economic development and transformation of sport in T&T.

The path to sustainable sport success, growth and development starts with a critical look in the mirror.

Brian Lewis is president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.

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Sport is motivational, inspirational, aspirational and a positive catalyst for healthy lifestyles and attitudes.

It facilitates social cohesion, equity, social justice and fair play.

Many have the naïve impression that all sport leaders understand and live the positive ideals and purpose of sport.

Many believe, somewhat naively, that all sport leaders put the best interest of sport ahead of their self-interest.

Many believe that all sport leaders exceed and deliver on the promises made.

Sport is omnipresence.

Successful leaders love change, whereas the unsuccessful do everything they can to keep things from changing.

Successful leaders look at how the world around them is changing and focus and embrace ways to improve what they are doing. Change is not something to resist.

The willingness to accept change is a great quality of successful leaders.

The most successful go beyond mere change and challenge traditional thinking. They challenge traditional thinking and traditions and create new ways of doing things. They disrupt that which is already working in order to get to a better place. Indeed they don’t allow traditional thinking to hold them back.

Grant Cardone put it best when he said successful leaders were called thought leaders who design the future with forward thinking.

It’s not change for change sake but it’s the willingness to challenge tradition and find new and better ways to accomplish goals and objectives.

If sport is to reach goals previously thought impossible and correctly set goals and guarantee their achievement and create unprecedented levels of success, the leadership deficit must be addressed. Success is overcoming a challenge. Sport, like life, can be quite brutal.

Great leaders anticipate and solve problems, they make situations better not worse.

Why is there a leadership deficit? The reasons are many and include; living in the past and doing everything possible to keep things from changing.

Sport leaders need to accept responsibility for the problems, mistakes and missteps and take immediate actions to address the leadership deficit.

Stop being apathetic. The barrage of controversies and bacchanal will continue once sport leaders keep making excuses for their shortcomings and mistakes and refuse to accept responsibility for what happens on their watch.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said the respect of partners was indispensable for the autonomy of sport.

“We earn this respect through responsibility and reliability, by using our autonomy responsibly and acting reliably.

“Sport is completely dependent on its credibility, ie on the credibility of sports competitions and on the credibility and reputation of sports organisations.”

In a nutshell good governance and integrity matters. Sport stake holders and partners should demand nothing less. Sport leaders who don’t measure up and are creating more problems than they solve should be held accountable for their decisions and mistakes and actions.

Incompetence, fraud, misappropriation, corruption, abuse and misuse of office must not be swept under the carpet.

Ignoring the problems and hiding the truth will not make the problems go away. They will only get worse.

Most times, anyway, leaders who are beneficiaries of a slap on the wrist become serial offenders, hubristic and a law on to their own selves.

When they eventually leave office they leave deep almost intractable problems known and unknown that have to be solved. The challenge then becomes solving those problems while at the same time protecting the good name, reputation and image of sport.

Taking responsibility changes everything’. You have to step up. Ask yourself what part am I playing and what is the one thing I can do?

How do sport organisations, sport stakeholders respond to this crisis in leadership?

In times of crises, you must have the courage to stand up and take responsibility, anything else will be useless.

Brian Lewis is the President of T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the National Olympic Committee.

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Recently I read an article about the reasons why the New Zealand 7s rugby team was so successful under Gordon Tietjens. Tietjens coached the New Zealand team for 20 years. His success is legendary. He expects his players to make extreme sacrifices. He revealed that the players have to undergo tests for strength, repeated speed and Beep/YoYo testing.

Tietjens stated that players have to comply with conditioners’ standards.” If they don’t, I don’t pick them”. He expects his players to look after their nutrition, fitness levels and to manage their lifestyles.

Success is mandatory and selection is ruthless. He told the reporter that success in sport, just as in business, depends on culture.

His approach and ethos is mirrored in almost every high performance sport programme across the developed world.

Here in T&T, some people label our sportsmen and women pampered and mentally soft. This is an unfair and judgmental statement meant to cover over the deficiencies of sport leaders, decision makers and the sport system.

There are two sides to every story. What are our athletes saying?

Individual and national team sport athletes determined to maintain their focus and attention on becoming a Continental, Olympic or World champion feel they are being impeded in their efforts by a dysfunctional, bureaucratic, inefficient, ineffective and unsympathetic sport system.

That there are gaps along the pathway from junior to development level and the system is failing those who have the talent and potential to be successful elite level sportsmen and sportswomen.

To achieve excellence they need excellent coaches, excellent training programmes, access to facilities and financial support.

They perceive there is a lack of financial support, lack of coaching expertise and support, lack of training/competition opportunities.

Sportsmen and women perceive the sport system here as an obstacle rather than a success factor.

It makes little sense hiding the extent of the problem.

Lack of support is an obstacle that can negatively impact performance excellence.

In the modern world of elite sport, an amateur athlete or national team is required to train full time to the detriment of other areas of their lives.

Our sportsmen and women need help now, not tomorrow. We have to stop putting the bandwagon before the horse.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the responses of our athletes and national teams.

We are selling our sportsmen and women and national teams short. Our sport system is too far behind.

There is a growing gulf between our sportsmen and women, elite level athletes and national teams and national sport organisations, national governing bodies, Ministry of Sport and the TTOC. The problem needs to be addressed now not later. The landscape is evolving rapidly.

We are fast becoming a relic of a bygone age.

The deficiency has been collective. Elite and Olympic level sport isn’t nebulous. It is performance driven.

Successful athletes and national teams inspire a generation of young people.

We need successful athletes and national teams. Sport provides almost immediate feedback of what you have achieved or not achieved.

People generally have passionate views for a reason. We have to create the sport environment that will inspire our athletes and national teams to strive, achieve and maintain excellence.

Our athletes feel that those in power sit in their ivory tower and remain detached from the feelings and concerns of sportsmen and women. This is not only frustrating but should be of concern to those entrusted with the power and authority to make a positive difference.

The time to start is now.

• Brian Lewis is the President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the National Olympic Committee.

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We must plan long term if we are serious about making a mark in world sport.

The consistent success that Trinidad and Tobago so dearly crave and desire will not happen because we wish it. Not only must there be a long term plan but with it we must have discipline and patience.

To be the greatest of all time, to be an Olympic champion is an undistilled passion for thousands of sportsmen and women around the world. Here in T&T, we do have sportsmen and women who carry dreams of greatness in their hearts.

Even as I made the announcement 16 months ago that our Olympic target is 10 or more gold medals by 2024, there were no illusions that such a declaration would meet with unanimous acceptance. There would be varying responses. Positive, negative, scornful or dismissive. It didn't really matter. Nothing can be achieved unless it is first spoken.

Striving for excellence is a core Olympic value.

An Olympic gold medal has far deeper significance than just the trappings and financial rewards and the adulation.

Winning an Olympic gold medal and becoming a champion is a process, attitude and mindset.

Luck? Destiny? Purpose?

There are many opinions based on individual perspectives and experiences.

Love it, hate it, embrace it or resent it.

Being an Olympic champion has been a cherished achievement for over 2000 years.

Myth, truth, legend or mere tall tales—the pursuit of Olympic glory and victory has always gone hand in hand with producing decent honourable men and women who are deeply and unwavering patriotic.

The quest and enduring romanticism of an Olympic gold medal has surged deep within the human psyche a stirring for Olympic gold, it is the ultimate achievement for many sportsmen and women. The dream and vision of standing on the top of the Olympic podium with the gold medal around your neck and hearing your country's national anthem play and watching the national flag raising is something that words cannot describe. Not even money can adequately replicate or represent the emotions of such an experience. Priceless and invaluable memories.

Last week I attended along with other presidents from various Caribbean national Olympic committees a Rio 2016 preparation forum hosted by Carlos Nuzman, president of the Brazil Olympic Committee.

Brazil shared their vision for Rio 2016 and beyond. Their aspiration and intention is to finish in the top 10 of the Rio 2016 medal count.

Their strategic map and vision has been many years in the making. No matter the stumbles or failures, the Brazil Olympic Committee is focused on achieving their target.

At this particular point in time, they have around 700 athletes in their Rio 2016 programme. Their expectation is that just around 400 will be selected for Rio 2016.

There will always be arguments surrounding the social issues in Brazil. But it is undeniable that sport plays a significant role.

Olympic gold medals don’t guarantee social justice or a more equitable distribution of national wealth.

But as many athletes in Brazil set sight and focus on Rio 2016. The Olympic Games is a symbol of their country’s effort to achieve its full potential.

Here, our present and future Olympians are just as determined and focused on achieving their best in Rio 2016 and beyond.

We may not have the resources of a Brazil but I have no doubt that we can match any country in respect of determination and will power.

Rio 2016 is very much in focus and on the radar.

Last week’s visit to Rio as a guest of both the Brazil Olympic Committee and the Rio 2016 Organizing Committee was a timely reminder that the margin for error is razor thin.

Rio is in a race against time but they aren’t alone. Many other countries will themselves be leaving no stone unturned in the push for Olympic glory.

Brian Lewis is the president of the T&T Olympic Committee. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the Olympic Committee.

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