International Surfing Association President Fernando Aguerre recently traveled to Russia for an important meeting in the quest to get surfing included in the Olympics.
There, he was elected to a position on a key Olympic association that could help surfing’s changes of eventually making the games.
Fernando tells us why this new role is important, and outlines what needs to happen next to make Olympic surfing a reality.
I must say after hearing how it all works, the Olympic world sounds incredibly complicated and political. It’s hard to imagine anyone better equipped to navigate it all – and launch a charm offensive of surfing’s behalf – than Fernando.
What is the new position and why is it important?
Fernando Aguerre: My election to VP of the Association of IOC Recognized International Sport Federations (ARISF) is a huge move forward for the higher visibility of surfing in the Olympic Movement.
There are three key organizations for the International Federations (IF) that run sports: Association of the Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), and Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations (ARISF).
The Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations (ARISF) has 33 member international federations, all from top sports, most of which are lobbying for inclusion in the Olympic Games. These include Baseball, Karate, Squash, Wakeboarding, Roller Sport, etc.
Being on the Executive Council of the ARISF, which is the role I was elected to, brings very high visibility for Surfing and the ISA in the Olympic circles.
During the recent SportAccord Convention in St. Petersburg, Russia, I received congratulations from dozens of leaders in the Olympic Movement. Furthermore, my election underlines the relevance and importance of Surfing as a potential Olympic Sport. This is a four-year term mandate.
See Page 2 for key steps that are helping surfing's chances of inclusion
Is surfing getting closer to inclusion in the Olympics and what needs to happen before it is a reality?
Fernando: Yes it is, much closer more than even 6 months ago.
Several developments have catapulted forward our sport forward in our path to the Games.
1- The imminent going-to-market of a novel technology for making world championship quality surfing waves, with the announcement of over 12 of them to be started within the next 6 months, is huge good news to surfing. To put it simply: without high-quality, man-made waves, there will be no Olympic Surfing chances. It's that simple.
2- Another factor is the substantial increase in development of national federations around the world by the ISA. When I was first elected, there were just over 30 ISA members. Currently the ISA has 73 National Governing Bodies, on all continents. We are embarked in an aggressive campaign to further promote the sport and facilitate the creation of National Federations in Africa, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the island/states in the Pacific Ocean.
The increase in membership is a key element in our task to get Surfing into the Olympic Games. It includes:
March 2013: In Peru, during the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship, in the first ever appearance of a Danish team, athlete Casper Steinfath beat legendary SUPper and Waterman, Australian Jamie Mitchel, in the SUP technical race, one that includes SUP racing and SUP surfing.
May 2013, both Nicaragua and India celebrated their first ever National Surfing Championships. In the case of India, a top star of India’s most popular sport, Cricket, who is also a passionate surfer, opened the event.
May 2013: At the Reef ISA World Surfing Games, we had the inaugural participation in open surfing of teams from Sweden, Turkey and Russia, all countries where the ISA helped in the creation of surfing federations.
My goal is to reach 100 ISA member nations by the end of 2014, as geographical universality is a key International Olympic Committee criteria for inclusion.
3- The new Association of Surfing Professionals: The ISA and the ASP leaders have been in discussions of a joint effort towards the inclusion of Surfing in the Olympic Games. The new leadership of the ASP sees Olympic Surfing as a topic high priority in their list of goals. I delivered this news to the IOC, which they welcomed as excellent for the sport, since their criteria includes having the top stars of the sport in the Olympic Games.
The ASP's new Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer, Michael Lynch, is a person with over 16 years of very close experience with the Olympic leaders, as he acted as the head of VISA in dealing with the Olympic Games sponsorship. He gets the Olympics, and is a person respected in the Olympic World, as all International Olympic Committee leaders I met last week at the SportAccord Convention in Russia told me.
See Page 3 for a timeline of what needs to happen next
I would like to include a timeline for Surfing's inclusion in the Games, to help your readers to understand the process:
April 2013: Fernando attended the International Olympic Committee "Sports for All" Conference as a speaker and makes a presentation on the relevance of Surfing as a tool for socio-economical integration around the world, presenting the case of Juninho Urcia, a young surfer from Peru, who through five years of ISA scholarships, went from being an 11-year-old son of a fisherman, with no money even to travel to surfing championships in his own country and with a beat up hand me down board, to becoming the youngest ever open division Peruvian National Champion at the age of 16 and an ISA World Championship medalist.
May 2013: ISA President Fernando Aguerre, ISA Director General Bob Mignogna, and ISA Olympic Consultant Bob Fasulo attended SportAccord Convention and engaged with dozens of top leaders of the Olympic Movement during the week long Convention in St. Petersburg, Russia.
June 2013: Fernando is invited by Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) President Sheik Ahmad Al Sabath to attend the annual meeting of Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC).
July 2013: Annual Meeting of Friends of Olympic Surfing Members, an organization that is part of the ISA Foundation devoted to helping in the funding of the efforts for inclusion in the Games.
September 2013: Fernando and ISA consultant Fasulo will attend the IOC Session (Annual General Meeting of the IOC). This will be a crucial meeting since a new IOC President will be elected (for an 8-year-mandate) and the host city of the 2020 Summer Games will be selected from Istanbul, Madrid, and Tokyo.
October 2013: Full on campaign for inclusion in the 2024 Games starts.
Early 2015: ISA presents the proposal for inclusion in the 2024 Games.
Mid 2015: IOC Executive Board decides sports included in the short list for 2024.
Early 2017: Narrowing of the short list by the IOC Executive Board.
Mid 2017: New sport(s) to be included in 2024 Games is announced. Surfing will hopefully be included.
As you can tell, the agenda is complicated, engaging, and full of details. In reality there are literally 100 more levels of details in the execution of our plan.
While it remains complex, we are much closer to reach our final destination than ever before.