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GUEST EDITORIAL - Charlie Cook
Posted On:  16/11/2005
The Olympic format agreed upon last week was the result of a careful balancing of the interests of all stakeholders: sailors, sponsors, media and event organizers. Olympic aspirants spend years and countless sums training for and competing in the Olympics. They put their lives on hold. They want to compete in a fair event, with the best sailors winning the Gold. They don't want a format that amounts to nothing more than a lottery. Corporate sponsorship has become the lifeblood of Olympic campaigns. Media exposure is the currency of those sponsors. The more live TV coverage and other opportunities for exposure the better - for all sailors.

Literally billions of dollars are paid to the IOC for the right to cover the Olympics. The IOC have made clear that sports must adapt to this reality or be eliminated from the Olympics. This is an issue at all levels of the sport. Try explaining to an Editor who sends a reporter and photographer to an event why the winner isn't event sailing on the last day. The organizers of Grade 1 and World and Continental Championships of Olympic classes are also stakeholders. Whatever format was decided upon for
the Olympics is likely to trickle down to other events. Clubs want a format that's inclusive, and easily managed.

Some of the more radical proposals included an elimination series leading to a three race winner-takes-all final series for four boats. That would certainly have made for interesting live TV coverage on the final day of each event. But, especially given conditions expected in Qingdao, it would have reduced the competition to a lottery. In the end, the sport would have been changed, in many ways for the worse.

The format settled upon represented a compromise in the best sense of the word. The new format addresses the interests of all stakeholders. The potential for a lottery is greatly reduced; the best sailors will win the medals. A larger number of sailors will gain exposure through live TV coverage. The final race will be meaningful and interesting to the media. Finally, this is a format that organizers of Grade 1 events and class championships can implement.

Early returns have been overwhelmingly positive. The IOC are reported to be pleased with the format. The mainstream media think it's a good approach. Most importantly, it didn't "change the game" for the most important stakeholder - sailors around the World.

Charley Cook, ISAF Council
Member (Group P - USA and CAN)
web design Christopher Gibson