|Kuno Ritschard - President, International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation|
|Profile of the week|
Kuno has been a member of the World Executive Board since 1992 and was elected President of the International Water Ski Federation in September 2001.
He was re-elected for another four your period first at the 2005 World Congress in Tianjin/China and then again at the 2009 Congress in Calgary/Canada and the 2011 Congress in Dubna/Russia.
Following Kuno’s active involvement in Waterskiing, both as a competitor and coach, he worked from 1982 to 2002 as Technical Director for the Swiss Squash Federation and the Swiss Water Ski Federation.
Kuno has also been involved as an International judge since 1972. In 1984 he became a member of the Administrative Committee of the Europe, Africa & Middle East Confederation and was elected in 1992, first as Secretary General and from 1997 as President.
Wakeboarding is currently bidding for a place on the 2020 Olympic programme.
Tell us a bit about your role at the IWWF? What are your main responsibilities?
As President of the International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation I am responsible for the administration of day-to-day business, the worldwide promotion and marketing of Waterskiing, Wakeboarding and the other disciplines of the Federation. I also oversee the organisation of the different World Title events, the Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup series and the participation in Multisport Games. I coordinate media and marketing activities and represent the IWWF at the IOC and with other world and international sports governing bodies. There is a lot of additional work to do as Wakeboard was shortlisted just last year as a possible new sport for the 2020 Olympic Games.
As you just said, you are hoping to see wakeboarding included in the 2020 Olympics. What are you doing to push your sport and get the IOC on your side?
Our main work has been done last year in giving the IOC members and the National Olympic Committees as much information as possible on how a Wakeboard Cableway system operates and why it is a very environment friendly and low cost sport which gives everyone an opportunity to participate. We have produced a special brochure and DVD, provided magazines with in-depth interviews and have distributed our WAKEBOARD 2020 VISION material as widely as possible. We have also presented our affiliated Federations around the world with the full details of our Olympic bid. In addition to that we have spoken at congresses and at the IOC session with as many influential people within the IOC family as possible.
You set-up a Task Force across the world to campaign for wakeboarding at the 2020 Games. What strategies has this force undertaken?
We created a very ambitious action plan with our experienced Task Force following a great deal of brainstorming on the reasons why Wakeboard should be selected as the one new sport. As the IWWF World Congress had given us a clear budget limit we had to decide which is the best, low cost and most effective way to get as much from our efforts as possible. We were also guided by IOC advice not to waste resources on major advertising and lobbying campaigns and have relied far more on explaining our bid with high quality face-to-face contact. As Wakeboard is a youth driven lifestyle sport, its visual impact is very strong and this is why direct personal contact is more appropriate in order to demonstrate its great appeal.
Do you think you have a better or worse chance now that wrestling has been cut, or do you not see a link between the sport exiting to the one entering the Games?
Frankly speaking, I was surprised when I heard this decision. Wrestling has a strong, huge community and as expected there are now a lot of complaints. I also don’t like to see any political leaders starting to put pressure on the IOC. I am most concerned that all this pressure of politics and impact on major NOCs and the widely felt sympathies for a traditional and long standing Olympic sport may have a negative influence on the outcome of the vote in September. This could make the IOC’s task even more difficult which would be a pity.
I hope that all the IOC members remember what the IOC President said at the session in Guatemala before the decision was made to change the format of the Summer Games to 25 core sports: “We must now adapt to meet the taste of today’s young generation. For our movement, and all that it stands for, to remain relevant into the next decade and beyond, we must find ways to keep the appeal of our event, to engender the interest of young people in the thrill of sport.”
At this stage, with the IOC President’s clear directive in mind, if the IOC session in Buenos Aires really wants to achieve the objective of the session in Guatemala, then they have to vote for a new sport and not put Wrestling back in the Games.
You have clearly said that the IOC look for youth-centred events and that wakeboarding is one of them. Do you think this puts you in a good position to take a 2020 place?
The IOC President clearly stated, and it has been repeated by many other IOC members, they want to see a change in the Olympic Programme in adding new sports and disciplines which capture the interest of young people aged between 15-20 years. Boardsports around the world have an enormous following. Wakeboarding, like most of the other boardsports is strongly youth driven and seeing the interest which snowboarding created in Vancouver, we believe that Wakeboard would become a similar success with young spectators, TV viewers and users of social media. It could be the uniting sport for all boardsports in the Summer Olympic Games.
Have you seen a growth in participation and awareness since the IOC included you in the shortlist?
Most certainly. While I do not think that being shortlisted instantly helps to expand a sport, the growth of new Wakeboard Cableways worldwide has been very encouraging. It has also attracted new equipment manufacturers into the sector. They all appear to have healthy order books at this time. As the return-on-investment is high, the long term outlook is also very encouraging, not only for owner-operators, but also for cities, community groups, holiday resorts and summer camps.
What do you think wakeboarding has that would make it suitable for the Olympics and preferable in the eyes of the IOC, apart from being youth-centred.
There are many reasons. Here are some of them: