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Olympic Sailing: Ben Barger Speaks For The Athletes

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The athletes can relate very well to Paul Henderson’s pointbenbarger_s4g
that it’s not about the events it’s about the media, the
stories and the competition. But what
is clear is that the
path the ISAF had while under Paul Henderson’s control for
nearly a decade made it a feeding ground for strategy-less
council making decisions.

I surely was pissed off at how carelessly and blindly ISAF changed things right before each quad, especially when I fund 75% of my own Olympic campaign expenses. Did medal races make us a TV sport? Did killing the multihull get us closer? Without fitting and sustainable equipment to my body type and experience they are ‘make or break’ Olympic decisions.

After sitting on the Olympic Commission and as chair of the ISAF Athletes Commission, changes are now finally being made according to an overarching strategy that took some 18 months of nearly daily emails and calls with all the vested constituents responding (IOC, ISAF, MNA’s, sports consultancies). You can find this strategy on the homepage’s link on ISAF’s homepage. No it’s not perfect, but it’s a huge leap forward of where ISAF was.

The problem in the sailing sports federations world is that they aren’t run like businesses; they spend the money given to them and have nearly no clue how to actually market and sell the brand. Now with the approved strategy, ISAF will be out to the ultimate litmus test, having to engage tactics that requires raising capital and many other operational changes to achieve success.

My hope is that, although the changes are large now especially relating to equipment, the changes in the future will be expected, focused, and more so on the media and the marketability of commercial investment. I am personally tired of having to fund all the events with my entry fee, market myself to the max, go to freezing cold venues and pay for the rest of the Olympic dream while the rest of the world watches who wins.

What is clear through this new strategy is that these changes internationally won’t just change the landscape of Olympic Sailing globally but also here in the U.S. which is going to have to make a major overhaul to fit the development required to win in the upcoming Olympic Games. As Lance Armstrong once said, “it’s not about the bike.” And it’s surely not about the boat, and so I don’t know why sailing is so surprised to see the boats going to a more one design, ‘out of the box’ design and a push to more affordable options that allow talent to win above the size of the bank account.

And if it’s not about the “boat” then why is everybody so stressed out? I think whatever the new events are based on the implemented strategy, it will be a good weeding out process for those smart enough, fast and strong enough to compete on the new global Olympic circuit. Besides, now you can sail with your wife or significant other (mixed) and enjoy the dream together. Joking aside, thank the Olympic Commission with Phil Jones, Cory Sertl, David Irish, Chris Atkins, Dick Batt, George Fundak, Scott Perry, and the current president Goran Peterson for starting a revolution council finally approved. We finally shoved something useful down the ISAF chimney just in time for Christmas.

Ben's c
omments were made on the Scuttlebutt Forum...

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 December 2010 09:36 )