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  • How Archery is Aiming for More Popularity, Better Playing Worldwide


    03/05/08

    (FITA/Dean Alberga)
    Attention for Archery in Beijing

    (ATR) An experiment with web broadcast and an archery-only TV crew in Beijing are among the ways FITA, the International Archery Federation, hopes to increase the appeal of archery as a result of the Beijing Olympics.

    "Every sport must keep its competitions matched to the needs of the times," says Jim Easton, FITA president from 1989-2005.

    FITA has tried new formats for some time. In Barcelona, the finals were reduced from a four-day marathon to a 12-minute match, which helped increase appeal for viewers and broadcasters.

    In efforts to continue to increase the sport's appeal, FITA says it made several changes based on recommendations set forth in the 2005 report of the Olympic Program Commission. These include: reducing the number of simultaneous matches, and reducing time limits in team competition to increase excitement and number of arrows.

    The federation has worked closely with host broadcasters to ensure innovative camera shots, such as placing cameras in the center of the target and slow motion views of the arrow in flight.

    Archery Interest Shows Growth, Challenges

    Only about 40 percent of the 79,500 available archery tickets were sold during the Athens Olympic Games. (Getty Images)
    Viewership for archery in Beijing will largely depend on who makes the finals, FITA secretary general Tom Dielen tells Around the Rings.

    "It is clear that if we have China competing against India in a gold medal match, it will make a huge difference than if it is Bhutan against Samoa," Dielen says.

    Regardless, archery's strong relationships with broadcasters could mean double, or even triple, the viewership of Athens, Dielen says. On average, television coverage equaled ten hours per day for archery competition events at the 2004 Games.

    According to the 2005 IOC Summer Sport Report, a low percentage of archery tickets were sold at both the Sydney and Athens Games, 48.2 percent of the total 122,000 tickets.

    Only 150 news articles were written from July 30 to September 12, 2004, the period of the Summer Games.

    So, FITA has been working to increase viewership, not only in Olympic competition, but in all competitions. Television innovations are one avenue; YouTube is another.

    The federation, in a deal with online video site YouTube, now has a cyber library of videos, ranging from the 1957 World Championships to the 2007 Meteksan Archery World Cup Final in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

    As of Mar. 4, www.archery.tv had 15,311 channel views, and 258 subscribers since its launch in December 2007.

    Last November's World Cup in Dubai brought better coverage for the sport than the Olympics.
    FITA now is providing footage of past events on YouTube. (Getty Images)
    The Cup final was aired on more than ten TV channels, including Eurosport , CCTV, and ESPN 360. In addition, the final was featured in magazines such as Al Jazeera International and Sports Unlimited.

    FITA also has uploaded 26-minute highlight videos, medal matches, feature stories and interviews of star archers to its YouTube site. In the future, videos with coaching tips and best practices will be added to help promote worldwide development. And the YouTube page gives fans a chance to submit archery videos - educational, humorous or otherwise.

    Beijing Venue at Center of the Action

    The Beijing archery competitions will take place inside the Olympic Green, at the Olympic Green Archery Field.
    Olympic Green Archery Field. (FITA/Dean Alberga)


    The venue has three ranges: a 23-target range for competition warm-up and the ranking round; a range for both elimination and final rounds; and a range just for elimination rounds.

    The temporary venue has a total capacity for 5,384 spectators, who will be seated behind and to the sides of the archers for best perspective.

    The venue hosted the Good Luck Beijing Archery Tournament in April 2007, which yielded good reviews. Dielen says athletes felt special in the fields and the concept is quite close to the feeling they got in the ancient arena in Athens.
    Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens, Greece. (Getty Images)


    "Nothing will ever replace the Athens venue, but the feedback from the test event is very positive," Dielen says. At the 2004 Athens Games, the archery events took place at the Panathinaiko Stadium, which hosted the first Olympic Games of the modern era in 1896.

    The Beijing venue is convenient to the Olympic Village, an improvement over Athens, about 30 minutes between village and venue.

    Beijing Qualifiers Show Increasing Parity for Sport

    A total of 128 people, 64 men and 64 women, will earn their way to the Games either through international championships, continental qualifiers or invitational slots.

    Qualifying began at the World Championships in July 2007 in Leipzig, Germany. Forty-three berths were up for grabs in each gender: three reserved for China, 24 for the top eight teams and 16 for the best individual athletes not part of a team.

    The championships meant upsets in both men's and women's competition, with several top-ten teams failing to qualify. France and the Netherlands failed to qualify in the men's competition and Turkey failing to qualify in the women's competition.

    Dielen says the surprises came from Colombia, Iran, Romania and Canada climbing the ranks.

    "The subtop level has joined the top level, making the competition much more open than in the past," Dielen says.

    Following the world championships, the continental qualifiers began. Asia, the Americas and Oceania are already completed. Africa's qualifier took place in February, and Europe will round-out the continentals in June, where 60-80 archers will compete for only three Olympic spots.
    Jim Easton, FITA's former president, still provides a voice as an IOC member for the U.S.


    The IOC, the Association of National Olympic Committees and FITA all have a say in handing out invitational places, which are meant to provide small delegations the chance to compete. Though the process will not conclude until June, already 56 requests have been submitted for the three spots available each for men and women.

    The last ten spots will be up for grabs at the final qualification tournament in June, in Boe, France. The tournament is a new addition, which aims to provide a maximum number of participating countries.

    Dielen says FITA is planning to include the World Cup stages as an Olympic qualifier following Beijing.

    Beijing: Who Will Win?

    Projections by Luciano Barra, the former director of sport for the Italian Olympic Committee, places Korea, Russia and Great Britain among the top winners in men's and women's team and individual competitions.

    Barra bases his predictions on results from the most recent international competitions.

    Dielen says based on last year's performances, fans may also see podium finishes from Australia, China, Italy, India, Malaysia and the USA.

    In Athens, nearly all medalists had placed in the top five in at least one major event prior to the Games.

    Growth and Development

    Dielen says 2008 not only is important as an Olympic year, but also because FITA is moving ahead with its World Plan, aimed at producing a more balanced competition field.

    The more traditional archery powers will have to catch up with the younger and dynamic ones, if they do not want to miss the train, Dielen says.

    Continental association development, Dielen suggests, has brought many positive changes for archery. He says the Americas and Asia are making progress and efforts underway in Africa and Oceania are bringing results.

    Geared up for Youth Olympic Games

    Some of the challenges for the YOG will be defining the qualification system, Easton says. (FITA)
    FITA was among the first federation to react to the IOC's call for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Many changes have been put into place to make room for the YOG, including moving FITA's Youth World Championships an entire year earlier.

    For the YOG, 32 men's and women's teams are proposed, including a team event, which would mix genders and nations.

    "Archery is a sport in which a person of any size can excel and, therefore, archery can be attractive to a large percentage of young boys and girls worldwide," Easton says.

    Archery will continue its development of youth and school programs, which will eventually grow from youth, through middle and high school, university, club and to national team programs, according to Easton.

    Para-archery

    Para-archery, which as of January 1, 2008 is governed by FITA, is an integral part of the sport and its overall development. For instance, for the first time this year, Iran has obtained a Games spot. Archery in Iran came about through the Paralympics as a good sport for former soldiers with disabilities.

    FITA aims to develop Paralympic archery by creating a more appropriate qualifying system and integrating events as part of national championships. Coaching clinics will also be available to Paralympians.

    In the future, FITA hopes to include archery for the visibly impaired to the Paralympic program.

    Anti-doping Measures

    While no sport can say it has no risk for doping, Dielen says that history shows the risk is minimal for archery. He says FITA has been a front-runner in the fight against doping. It was the first federation to test for alcohol in competition, the first to test out of competition with WADA in 1999 and the first to use the Anti-doping Administration and Management System for athlete whereabouts, known in shorthand as ADAMS.

    The FITA athletes' committee is heavily involved in training athletes to use ADAMS and to be available for of competition testing. According to FITA, athlete compliance is up and the number of missed doping tests is down.

    The main doping issue for archery would appear to be positive cases by recreational archers. On average, recreational archers with positive cases last year were 53 years old. The positive results were mainly due to beta-blockers for cardiovascular problems.

    FITA has started an antidepressants-based research program to find out if some of these medications may need to be banned. The conclusions will be presented to WADA after research is finished.

    Sponsor Changes

    Longines is replacing Balmain Swiss Watches as one of FITA's sponsors.
    Longines, a Swiss watch manufacturer, has over 125 years' experience in timekeeping.
    The change came as Balmain wishes to focus on fashion, rather than sport.

    FITA expects one or two additional contracts, but declined to provide details. Archery faces difficulty in the initial contact with sponsors because the marketing value of the sport still is not well known by companies at large.

    Along with Longines, other major sponsors include Meteksan Events, Kia Motors, Turkish Airlines, Longines, Sport Toto, Milli Piyango and TEPE Construction.


    Hompage photo from Getty Images.

    Written by Laura Grundy.

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