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I had lunch with International Surfing Association President Fernando Aguerre the other day, just after the International Olympic Committee announced the most recent short list of sports that are being considered for inclusion in the 2020 games.
Surfing did not make the list. The sports that made the list are baseball, karate, roller sports, softball, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu, according to the IOC.
I asked him if he was disappointed.
“Yes, of course. But I don’t confuse disappointment with defeat. Disappointment is a feeling, an emotion, and I am quite an emotional person. But defeat is factual, with no chance to overturn that.
“I like to read about the strategy of wars, and this is a long battle and a long war,” he said.
The biggest issue this time around is that a high-quality, man-made wave pool with world-class waves has not yet been developed, he said.
“We’ve come from nowhere to somewhere, but without the technology we couldn’t convince them because they couldn’t see it,” he said. “But we have gained a lot of respect. Three years ago, they were rolling eyes. Now people inside (the Olympics) are saying this is not far-fetched.”
“I’m still very optimistic. As I said on our official release, if you are a surfer, you know if you miss a wave, another wave is coming and you just need to be better prepared next time.
“I think in our case better prepared means working closer with private entities that are developing waves and assuring that we have something in the works. It’s a matter of timing because I do think that in the next six to 12 months there will be a wave pool out there that is good, that has a world championship quality wave.”
Now, Fernando and the ISA are focused on getting surfing on the next “preshort list” which comes out in 2013.
To boost the chances for surfing, the ISA wants to get involved in more regional games such as the Africa Games, the Pan Am Games, and the new European Games, which are part of the Olympic movement and are seen as trial tests for the sports.
Fernando said he has learned a lot in the process, which includes comprehending the complicated politics and structures of the Olympic movement.
“There are a lot of dynamics at play from the sponsors, the TV, the host nations, the different (sport) federations, the composition of the IOC itself,” he said.
“I don’t have any financial gain in what I do. I do this because I love it,” Fernando said. “I believe in the power of having young people in the ocean, I believe in us having a better relationship with the seas, where all life comes from.”
He sees the potential for an Olympic surfing gold medalist talking on behalf of the ocean, or on behalf of a humanitarian crisis. He also envisions how surfing in the Olympics could boost surfing’s growth in regions such as Africa and Asia.
Fernando is convinced surfing will be part of the Olympics someday. During the process he has learned that many stakeholders – people at NBC, big sponsors like Coke and others - love surfing, he said.
“We know Nike loves surfing. We didn’t know this 10 years ago. Now they are part of surfing…
“People ask me, ‘Do you really think this is really going to happen?’ I say ‘yes.’ I don’t do things that are not going to happen.
“I believe it will be achieved. If the only thing I’m doing is paving the way for someone else to do it, fine too. It’s not Fernando for Fernando. This is Fernando for surfing.”