(ATR) Persistence, passion and a creative flare epitomize surfing leader Fernando Aguerre.
ISA president Fernando Aguerre with IOC president Thomas Bach (ISA)
The Argentinian’s vision and dream of witnessing the classic lifestyle sport as part of the Olympic Games appears close to becoming reality.
If the IOC rubber-stamps Tokyo 2020’s request to include the surfing this August, it could be the makings of one tremendous showcase and party. A celebration of a sporting culture unlike anything else at the Olympic Games.
“Surfing is not just a sport, it’s a very unique culture,” said Aguerre, the International Surfing Association (ISA) president, at the SportAccord convention in Lausanne. “We’re very happy that the IOC understands that and they don’t look at us as only a sport, but also a connection to the youth of the world.
“It’s a sport that has a connection with some of the most relevant values of today - some environmentally, some humanitarian, and some surfers travel around the world to some unique places where other people don’t go.”
Brazilian surfer Tatiana Weston-Webb hope to compete at Tokyo 2020. (ISA)
“We’re looking forward to the final process and the vote on the new sports in Rio,” Aguerre said, referring to surfing potentially being approved by the IOC as one of five sports proposed by Tokyo 2020.
Surfing has weathered adversity in the Olympic Movement in the past. In the last 20 years, surfers has lost five Olympic bids - Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London, and Brazil – but most involved with the latest proposal believe the sport will write a new chapter in Japan.
The IOC recently sent a two-person observation team, including a senior member of the sport department, to witness a major surfing event in Australia first-hand. They were testing the waters so to speak.
“They were able to ask questions directly to the athletes – from a rookie 18-year-old French lady who won the U.S. Open to spending half-and-hour with Kelly Slater, the all-time surfing star,” Aguerre said, noting that most big name surfers back the sport becoming Olympic.
The ideal beach venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic competition – which would involve two events comprised of 20 men and 20 women – has yet to be declared. Aguerre advised that multiple locations have been scouted.
Surfing in Tokyo 2020 could involve 20 female surfers. (ISA)
“We’re talking waves on the ocean, and not man-made waves,” Aguerre said, referring to the former possibility that the events could have been contested in artificial wave parks. “This is what the IOC and Tokyo decided last year and we’re excited about it because the whole culture can be presented as it is.”
“We want to have like a beach youth festival – a celebration to last the entire Games,” Aguerre says, brainstorming plans for Tokyo 2020. “Beside the surfing, there might also be a place for music because some famous musicians are also surfers like Jack Jones, Jason Mraz and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam.
“Another thing that doesn’t happen in other sports is you are going to be able to go surfing – so you are going to be in the water with the athletes,” Aguerre explained of what an Olympic competition on a beach near Tokyo might be like.
“It’s almost like you can jump on the soccer field and start shooting balls at the goalie in the Olympics,” Aguerre joked.
Aguerre has guided the La Jolla, California-based ISA with style and panache since being elected president in Rio de Janeiro in 1994. Undoubtedly, the bow-tie adorned federation chief has played an integral role in growing the sport exponentially.
The ISA recently approved the Cook Islands as its newest member as they draw closer to 100 national federations, a number that Aguerre believes can be met in the coming weeks.
“Certainly, the development of the sport is worldwide,” he said.
Written by Brian Pinelli in Lausanne.
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