Monday, May 21, 2012

Playing Politics

Earlier this month, ISAF voted to kick the sport of windsurfing out of the Olympic games in 2016, and to replace it with kiteboarding. They effectively said that windsurfing should go the same way as other former Olympics sports like...



and Lacrosse.

For the record, this is the tally of votes at the ISAF meeting...

For kiteboarding 19: United States (3 votes), Canada, Qatar, India, Finland, Norway, Spain, Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands, Bulgaria, South Africa, Ireland, Venezuela, Singapore, Italy, Puerto Rico, Australia. 

For windsurfing 17: France (2), Poland (2), Argentina, Britain, Turkey, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Greece, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, New Zealand, Russia, Japan.

Of course, the windsurfing community is up in arms about this decision. What are those Olympic people thinking? Controversial. Awful. Ill-informed. Dreams crushed. There is a petition. There's even a Facebook group to Keep Windsurfing Olympic. Wow!  These people are really serious. 

Meanwhile there are wild reports circulating about what really happened at the ISAF meeting. The Venezuelans don't like the way their representative voted. Israel say some of the delegates were "napping" and didn't know what they were voting for. The Australians are accusing the Spanish of "incompetence or bribery."

It's politics, people.

This is how every democratic organization works. Delegates vote in favor of their own interests, or their voters' interests, or the interests of people who shovel them money, above or below the table. Deals are made and broken. Compromises are made. People agree to vote a different way on one thing to win votes from others on another issue.

It's called playing politics.

Some people think that "playing politics" shouldn't happen.

Get real. It happens.

If you windsurfers want to overturn this decision you had better learn how to play politics better and harder than the kite boarders do. Get stuck in. Twist some arms. Bend some ears. Do some deals. Apply pressure. Threaten. Cajole.

Play politics.


Baydog said...

Obviously, the kiteboarders know how to pull the strings.

Tillerman said...

Indeed they do.

USA-4 Steve Bodner said...

not worth it.
windsurfing is way better off without the olympics
godspeed to the kiters with their new isaf inlaws!

Tillerman said...

Good for you Steve. I think I would feel exactly the same if my boat, the Laser, were eliminated from the Olympics.

O Docker said...

The Laser had been around for 25 years before it became an Olympic class and somehow they'd managed to sell a hundred thousand or so until that point.

I wonder if the Laser didn't help the audience of the games more than Olympic recognition helped the Laser class.

Emily Titesphinker said...

I was shocked to read in your blog that money and politics might in some way be involved in the conduct of the Olympic Games.

What a skeptical and crotchety old man you've become.


Emily Titesphinker

Keep Reaching said...

One of the bloggers at the NY Times must follow your blog and so he wrote an article about other forgotten sports in the Olympics - including Tug of War and Dueling Pistols (using a dummy with frock coat instead of a human).

Joe said...

Democracy, Politics? I say bribery and corruption, sir! How else do explain a sport like "Curling" being in the Olympics. Those Canadians are notorious for their corrupt ways. Look how they go around the world telling people how to live and what to think.....oh wait, that's another North American juggernaut. I better stop now before I dig my hole any deeper. (this comment was not supported by a major shoe manufacturer)

Tillerman said...

There was an interesting idea on Scuttlebutt this week. Someone suggested that sailing should seek to become part of the Winter Olympics too. Not for Laser frostbiting or even iceboating, but by using kites to power boards over snow including events like course racing, cross country, speed trials in match format, etc.

Now if we could get some of the lady friends whom you photograph for your blog Joe to participate in this event - wearing the same ahem clothing that they wear in your photos - then I think he may be on to something.

George A said...

How about Cricket? The Wash Post says it's catching--someone should tell the IOC:

Tillerman said...

There is actually a group working to get cricket into the 2020 Olympics. The IOC recently recognized the International Cricket Council which at least means they are eligible to bid to be included. Don't hold your breath though.

Baydog said...

Joe, I dig your deep hole. I mean...........I agree with what you're saying.

Tillerman said...

I don't think adding the Laser to the Olympics has done a lot for the Laser, or for the Olympics. But I do think that adding the Laser Radial as the women's single-handed boat has boosted the popularity of the Radial among young women.

At least in North America, there do seem to be many more attractive young women wearing tight lycra and neoprene around at Laser regattas these days.

Or maybe I am just becoming a dirty old man?

George A said...

I dunno, Tillerman. Most of the women I've talked to who were sailing Europe dinghies at the point when the IOC crossed over to Laser radials preferred the Europe dinghy. They were scratching their heads trying to figure out just how a heavier boat with less sail area added up to "more exciting sailing for female competitors".

"Rickie, I'm shocked to discover gambling in this establishment..."

Tillerman said...

Well, that may be true George. But how many women were sailing Europe dinghies? My impression is that it was never a mass market boat. I was really making a point about quantity rather than quality.

George A said...

I think the biggest mistake the Europe dinghy groups, especially in North America (Canada, USA, Mexico)and places like Australia where the boats were not historically strong in numbers, made was that they concentrated 100% of their energy on grooming elite women sailors for the single berth on their respective Olympic teams. There was zero effort directed at fleet building and/or local racing. Historically the Europe was never very well organized on this side of the Atlantic. Even in the days when the design was known as the "Europa" Moth there were very few boats over here. The current remaining strongholds for the Europe dinghy class, primarily in northwestern Europe, are those areas where the boat had strong local fleets before Olympic selection.

Laser got it right straight out of the box--market the boat to the general sailing public, establish a strong base by supporting local fleets and racing and then apply the political pressure to get the boat into the Olympic games.

It's kinda like Beta-Max vs VHS or Mac vs PC--the best format doesn't necessarily thrive or survive if the marketing strategy is flawed.

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