I get it, trust me, I do. As long as Sailing is in the Olympics, the disruption is significant. The focus of an expansive and diverse sport is on the very few. The national and international sailing federations spend an inordinate amount of time on the topic. Class organizations must conform to Olympic standards. Youth training is excessive. And the money, oh, the money.
So yes, I get it, but I also see how it is a privilege to be a sport of the Olympic Games. Other sports want in, and Sailing has been one of the Olympic sports since the first Olympiad – Athens 1896. Apart from the St. Louis, Sailing has been present in every edition of the Olympic Games. It has launched dreams, provided mountains to climb, and created heroes.
Maybe my perspective is biased. I campaigned in the Tornado Class for Barcelona 1992 and worked alongside 3-time Olympic medalist Mark Reynolds. My yacht club members have won nine medals and attended many more Games. I have seen the history and embraced the celebration.
I have witnessed it too. Attending the Sailing World Cup in Miami highlights the effort and earnestness of aspiring Olympians. North America is lucky to have such a beacon of activity come to Florida each winter. But to see the Games in action, as I did for Rio 2016, showcases it not as a sailing regatta but as a movement where all ethnicity, gender, religion, and opinion can come together as one.
And now, more than ever, the involvement of Sailing in the Olympics can have a positive impact on the entire sport.
The International Olympic Committee requires international federations to achieve 50 percent female participation in the Olympic Games to the extent of also promoting mixed-gender team events. For Sailing, this will help to break down gender and cultural barriers and support inclusiveness for an underserved segment.
But more so, this IOC directive is requiring balanced gender representation for race officials and coaching too. The Olympic level of our sport is now desperate for support from the grassroots level to promote this opportunity for women. For a sport that relies so heavily on volunteerism, this mandate will open sticky doors to bring all hands together to carry the load.
To achieve this Olympic initiative toward promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls, disruption must occur. The events and equipment decisions for Paris 2024 have been overhauled, and veteran men fervently climbing the race official ranks may not reach the top rung. But the result should be progress which, as an Olympic sport, benefits all sailors everywhere.
by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt