Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Still tracing the thread of thought that led me to firmly believe that a "conference" bringing together the different parties involved in indoor skydiving could be the perfect catalyst for its future development. Today's instalment: the present.
In the first part of "Why ISGS" we left off where FAI's candidate paragliding missed out on making the cut for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The selection made by the Tokyo 2020 Additional Event Program Panel comprised climbing, skateboarding and surfing – plus the acknowledged favorites baseball/softball and karate. How would things develop for 2024?
It was uncertain whether a similar approach to arrive at the organizers' choice of (an) additional sport(s) would apply for the Paris 2024 Olympics too. Unlike golf and rugby sevens, which were ab initio selected for Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, none of the five new sports for 2020 was ensured that it would feature in two consecutive games. The post-Tokyo experience could easily bring sobriety to at least some of them.
The new process – without any specific mechanisms put in place by the Paris Organizing Committee – was subject to extensive discussions at all levels from October 2017, when IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell informed all Recognized International Federations that the bye-laws 1.2 and 1.3 to Olympic Charter Rule 45 would apply once more. In essence, any sport governed by a recognized federation was eligible to be added to the program upon the expressed wish of the Paris organizers.
In July 2018, McConnell outlined a timeline for a process that was supposedly subject to a policy of “Don’t call them, they will call you!” – in contrast to Tokyo 2020's call for formal applications going out to all sports with aspirations.
That the Fédération Française de Parachutisme (FFP) had taken the initiative – despite the policy – to “call” upon the organizers was laudable. Every serious contender did the same. I know that the Fédération Française de Danse (FFD) was in contact with the Paris Olympic Organizing Committee (POCOG) as well as the French Olympic Committee from early 2017. And I saw the bid documentations of several other candidate sports (billiard sports, boules sports, chess and others) circulating from mid-2017.
The official bid presented by the FFP – as well as by the by FAI – to POCOG for inclusion of indoor skydiving into the Paris 2024 Olympics was absolutely state-of-the-art in terms of its "look & feel," but the message(s) should have gone beyond the emotional pitch and addressed areas that relate to the new realities created between the Olympic Charter and Agenda 2020. Even though we are all aware that indoor skydiving falls short of the minima in quite a few of these areas: universality, participation, etc.
Maybe FFP and FAI were counting on fine-tuning their message(s) to POCOG during the World Indoor Skydiving Championships in Lille, France, in late April. Indeed, the timeline established by the IOC Sports Department foresaw the organizers' selection to be made and announced not before the second quarter of 2019. A decision was scheduled to be taken by the IOC Session 2019 in late June.
But it played out differently in the end! The surprise was huge by mid-February 2019, weeks ahead of schedule, when several French media outlets leaked which four sports would be put forward by POCOG. The formal announcement at a media conference on 21 February 2019 merely confirmed them: breaking, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. Indoor skydiving came up short in its quest to make it onto the sports program for the Games of XXXIII Olympiad Paris 2024.
The announcement dealt an even bigger blow to baseball/softball and karate. Both are additional sports on the Tokyo 2020 program but will not repeat in Paris 2024.
POCOG confirmed that 19 IOC Recognized International Federations had submitted a bid for inclusion. POCOG also provided the reasons for its choice of the four sports, which many considered to be very radical, with four words: YOUTH, PERFORMANCE, SPECTACULAR and INCLUSIVE.
Maybe, and just maybe, this does actually bode well for the future! It was upon these premises that I defined the overriding objective for a "congress" and communicated it to the IPC Bureau: bringing indoor skydiving to the next level.
Part III follows tomorrow.
Roland Hilfiker, ISGS Organizer and Moderator
Go to Part I!