Kim Andersen, President World Sailing:
I would like to thank all of our Member National Authorities, the Medical Commission and organisers working closely and swiftly with the World Sailing team to adapt, change and communicate as fast as possible.
To think back now on what any government or international body should have done or could have done in time has no value. Everybody has acted in the best way within the available timeframe for decision-making.
Within World Sailing, we have had extensive dialogue with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on the future of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Up until the day the IOC postponed Tokyo 2020, we were working closely with our sailing community to adapt to the ever-changing situation, and working with the IOC on how to deal with qualification events.
While a cancellation could have been decided by the IOC alone, it goes without saying that a decision on a postponement could only be taken with the Organising Committee and the Japanese authorities being on board.
It is now clear, as agreed by the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, and IOC President Thomas Bach, and confirmed by the IOC Executive Board, that Tokyo 2020 will take place from 23 July to 8 August 2021. The name will remain as “Tokyo 2020,” to honour the preparations and history.
Now we have a ‘new’ unprecedented challenge ahead of us – the organisation of the postponed Olympic Games. This is a first in the history of the Olympic movement. It will be a huge undertaking because, as you are well aware, the Olympic Games are the most complex peaceful event on this planet.
With the postponement, it does leave some questions. So, what does this mean for the Olympic sailing competition?
We can confirm that nations who have qualified already for Tokyo 2020 will retain their quota places, despite the postponement of the Games. Given the situation, the remaining continental qualifiers are suspended.
World Sailing is actively following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic around the globe, but we are now confident that, with consultation with the IOC, we will be able to complete our outstanding qualification events for Africa, Asia and Europe before the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021. If it proves to be impossible to host fair qualification events, we will have a system in place to allocate the remaining 15% of quota places using historical results, in order to give athletes time to prepare with certainty.
The financial impact from the postponement of Tokyo 2020 is to be clarified. World Sailing, like many International Federations (IFs), relies heavily on the revenue share of the Olympic Games. Together with other IFs, in close cooperation with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), we are in dialogue with the IOC for bridging the postponement period financially.
The World Sailing Board of Directors, together with the organisation, are taking a proactive approach and exploring all the options available, such as public support, supplier relief, our own funds and savings linked to the lockdown period.
For the Paris 2024 Events, we have asked the IOC to confirm the timeline or updated process in place for completing the Programme Commission review. Any changes to the timeline or process will have a big impact on World Sailing, as many of our athletes are already focused on and training for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
For the 2021 World Cup Series events, World Sailing’s Council approved a new events strategy that utilises existing events and has an events calendar that regulates windows for events on the northern and southern hemispheres. This will protect the traditional events and help support sailors, class associations and event organisers in their planning.
From 2021, all graded events worldwide will be part of the Hempel World Cup Series. The events will be ranked based on the quality of the ranked sailors participating. World Sailing will showcase three World Cup events with the highest-ranked sailors, by engaging with the events and using our media platform to showcase the highest level of our sport. The priority is to ideally showcase World Cup events from three different continents.
Event organisers of existing events in 2021 could include the new slate of events for Paris 2024 and the Tokyo 2020 events in order to showcase the sport and the best sailors.
In the foreseeable future we will continue to see events throughout all sports either suspended or cancelled. This a major setback for all the stakeholders in our sport, but we need to continue to act responsibly and to remain optimistic about the future. For sure, the experience gained from the pandemic will influence the way we think and act in the future.
Sailing is a lifelong sport and lifestyle; it has a strong legacy, strong values and a strong connection to nature. We will make the most of it for new and existing sailors when we return to the ‘new normality.’
This new situation will need all our solidarity, creativity, determination and flexibility. We all need to make sacrifices and compromises.
Take care and stay safe to all of you!