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Jerôme Pels: "The sport of sailing is indeed changing radically"

Έχουν περάσει αρκετές μέρες από την ολοκλήρωση των Ολυμπιακών και Παραολυμπιακών Αγώνων που ήταν το μεγαλύτερο γεγονός της χρονιάς και με βάση αυτό το σκεπτικό ο Bernard Schopfer της MaxComm Communication που διοργανώνει κάθε χρόνο το World Yacht Racing Forum πήρε μια ενδιαφέρουσα συνέντευξη από τον Jerome Pels, Γενικό Γραμματέα της ISAF. 
Η συζήτηση κινήθηκε στους ΟΑ και στις αλλαγές που έχουν προγραμματιστεί για το Ρίο το 2016, μιας και το άθλημα αλλάζει δραστικά, όπως παραδέχτηκε και ο γενικός γραμματέας. 

WYRF: Jerôme Pels, is ISAF satisfied with the last Olympic Games?
Jerôme Pels: "Yes, we think it was highly successful. We tried some new things that worked well, and have had a very positive feedback. The ticketed viewing area, for example, worked particularly well. It was sold out in advance, and attracted an enthusiastic public."

WYRF: "That's true, but wasn't the public almost entirely made up of sailors? Can our sport attract a wider audience?
Jerôme Pels: "I don't agree with you, there were many non-sailors in this public. Bear in mind that the British sailors were expected to do very well, and this has attracted people who don't sail but wanted to see one of their fellow citizens win a medal." 

WYRF: Can you value the success of this ticketed area?
Jerôme Pels: "We don't have the final numbers yet but I'll definitely bring them to the Forum in December. What we already know is that Weymouth got an excellent score in the customer satisfaction survey conducted by LOCOG at all Olympic venues, which is great for our sport. Sailing was definitely one of the successes of the Olympic Games."

WYRF: According to some sailors, this ticketed area compromised the quality of the sailing and the event wasn't fair.
Jerôme Pels: "Some sailors who haven't obtained the results they were expecting have effectively said so. But I think the reality is different. We've had a fantastic feedback from most competitors, who said they had never before sailed in such a "stadium", where they could hear and see the public. There has been a real interaction between the public and the athletes for the first time in the history of Olympic sailing, and this is definitely positive. As for the negative consequences of sailing close to the shore, they didn't occur."

WYRF: Do you think the best sailors won the medals?
Jerôme Pels: (Hesitates...) "Yes, I think so."

WYRF: What were the other most important changes this year?
Jerôme Pels: "There were many, for examples the downwind finishes who provided passing lanes during the last leg and opened up the game. The prohibition of Rule 42 (pumping) in some circumstances also changed the game. The sport of sailing is indeed changing radically.

WYRF: On the other hand, what didn't work as well as you expected?
Jerôme Pels: "We've had some rights issues with the IOC, which I regret. We developed GPS tracking and 3D animations, and both ISAF and Swiss timing invested a lot for this; however we were not allowed to use them because it was a violation of the IOC broadcast contract."

WYRF: What will be kept from those Olympic Games and transferred to Rio?
Jerôme Pels: "It's a wide question, and still open at this stage. However there are clear trends. For example, we are considering shortening the Olympic sailing contest in order to reduce the costs for the organization. With the new equipment selected for the next Games we will also consider new format of courses."

WYRF: In order to satisfy the media and the public?
Jerôme Pels: "The media don't have a direct impact on the racing; they can follow the races well and we don't need to gear the events towards them. It is different with the public as we want to increase the interaction. For example, if the viewing area is on leeward of the course, then the arrival should also be there. I believe that there will be more public in Rio than there was in London, so we need to get this right."

WYRF: Let's now talk about the classes; there are currently fierce comments about the dismissal of the windsurfs RS:X and the arrival of the kites, as well as the women's match racing. What do you answer to those critics?
Jerôme Pels: "First of all it is important to remember that it is a democratic process and that the vote is made by the ISAF Council - in other words by the member-countries. Now the decision has been taken and of course, those who haven't been chosen, are unhappy. Some member-countries are also disappointed and we have received proposals to review this. A final decision will be taken in November by the ISAF Council."

WYRF: And what about the format? Nobody knows on what kind of kites the races will take place, on what courses... Shouldn't this have been announced immediately?
Jerôme Pels: "Same answer: decision in November, immediately followed by an information to the public and stakeholders."

WYRF: Will there be more changes?
Jerôme Pels: "No. Our goal is to innovate and to keep the sport at its top. We have demonstrated to the IOC that sailing is modern and can adapt to its times. We have definitely ticked their boxes. Now is time to consolidate the changes made and to deal with them."

WYRF: Last question: Jacques Rogge will soon retire as President of the IOC. As we know, he is a past Olympic sailor. Are there fears that his successor will change sailing's positioning in the Games? Some voices even suggest that sailing will soon be eradicated from the Olympic Games...
Jerôme Pels: "To begin, Jacques Rogge has been a great President for the IOC, very respectful of all sports. Of course it's always good to have a friend at the top and Mr Rogge obviously likes sailing. But I don't think he ever used his love for sailing to promote the sport. Perhaps it was even the other way round, and we had to work harder to convince and make our point. Having said this, and to conclude, sailing has been very successful in Weymouth, and I am very confident for the future, whoever the next President of the IOC is."

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