It’s the first time you come to a big event like Berlin: what do you think of it?
Our sport could never achieve such a high organizational level if it wasn’t attached to some other sports event, like the athletic marathon in this case. We have much to grow before we can walk with our own legs: prior to organizing a 8000 participants standalone race, we need to get much more big sponsors, otherwise we definitely need to be tied to another sport’s competition.
Excuse me, Sir, but in Korea they do standalone marathons with numbers like that. How do they manage to get those sponsors?
In fact, they’ve got the right ones! Could you organize such an event for 8000 people in, say Buenos Aires, with Berlin’s standards?
Those morons couldn’t ever do it, not even for 8 persons, no way…
Yes, not even in Italy could we do something like that. We have to be realistic: truly big sponsors are needed in order to keep thousands of individuals satisfied. If we try to do something like Berlin and we do it wrong, it will have a boomerang effect on our sport. Athletes and skaters not happy, TV channels not happy, public not happy… So this is the success recipe: first to find the right sponsors, second to bring in an elevated organizative standard, third to guarantee massive public participation. It’s not only the top-class athlete’s race, it must be an EVENT, a media-prone one: reaching a participants number in the order of thousands is a sure bet to attract the media.
Cali’s Worlds: cast your vote (from 1 to 10)
In general, I would say 7. In some aspects they were excellent. In some others, unexpectedly, they created problems. I said unexpectedly because the benchmark of this sport in Colombia is so high, that nobody would have think beforehand that they could make the mistakes they did. And I think I have an explanation for those mistakes: the Colombian Federation wanted to keep for itself the organization of Worlds, instead of outsourcing the event to specialized companies, or even to one of the local clubs.
So in your opinion a single club could have handled Worlds by itself better than the Federation?
Sure! Technically speaking, one of the big clubs in Cali is more than capable of organizing a World Championship; besides all the big bosses were in Bogota, they only sent one or two representatives to oversee the preparation works, and that wasn’t enough. The “know-how” is really necessary. For instance, I know that if tomorrow we want to organize a World Championship in Argentina, there are about a hundred persons over there that are competent and skilled enough to do the job well, because they are acquainted with an event like that.
Maybe, but they’ll over-charge everyone 100 million bucks, aside of spending 50 and invoicing 200 millions more…
Ah, yes. That would be a problem. Forget it, then.
Right. Speaking of numbers, why do you guys tend to advertise too much the infamous 50 participating countries at Worlds, being the truth a lesser figure?
Actually, in Korea we reached the 50 countries!
We’ve got 42 countries in Italy, 50 in Korea; this year we sold the 50 countries idea to the public because we were honestly expecting them to be in Cali. Colombia’s federation made a huge effort paying for accommodation and meals of many delegations, even a 500 U$ contribution for some of the top Asian skaters… but that wasn’t enough to persuade people to go to Colombia. Travel costs are really steep especially for those countries on the other side of the planet. However, we still try to “sell” this figure because clearly we need to create interest for the TV stations. In addition we have to demonstrate to the International Olympic Committee that we have a truly global World championship. For Olympic sports it’s easy to find funding, so their World Championships are easy to fill in with participants from many countries, since their federations are able to cover the costs. As you know, virtually everyone that participates at our Worlds pays for their own expenses, so our 35 countries are more valuable than the 80 competing in a free of charge tournament.
Let me ask you this: instead of having the organizers of Worlds in the last 3 years paying to have a few sloppy rookies lacking the basic skating skills among the elite athletes just because they allegedly come from exotic places, why don’t you guys invest that money in basic development for those countries with skating schools, seminars for coaches, etc?
Now that’s really expensive! We tried to do something like that in Africa, even sent skates there…nothing came out of it. It’s not easy to find someone on location wanting to really work for the sport. That’s why we want athletes from those countries participating at Worlds: so they can witness and understand what this sport really is. When they get back home, they’ll be able to help their country evolve with the knowledge and enthusiasm they gained. We believe this is a good promotional tool to help emerging countries, which help us in turn since we can show to the IOC that we have many countries striving with skating.
Ok, that’s reasonable. Why don’t you invest also in educating a little bit the inept judges that we have the disgrace to suffer during Worlds?
The real problem, once again, is money. We should be grateful to the judges, because yes, they’ve got travel expenses covered but they are forced to be away from their homes and families for two weeks, during which they get their arses baked under the sun for nothing but criticism. Moreover, they don’t get enough experience in their own countries: those living and judging in places with little racing will lack the necessary knowledge. That’s why we bring them to Worlds, so they can learn.
What!? You mean that medals at stake might be decided by bloody rookies enjoying a free holiday? Why don’t you guys organize courses and seminars instead?
Good idea! Are you paying for that? We actually do organize every year a seminar for judges in Italy, but federations are not able to cover the expenses to send their judges, we can only offer them accommodation and meals.
Coaches spend a great deal of their personal fortunes to be in seminars and conferences; I guess judges are not that passionate about our sport to do any sacrifice…
Maybe, but federations should be in the position of giving them the chance to be in such meetings. What’s the solution? To find a sponsor. We need the resources to produce that kind of experience.
And what about Catalonia? Are they still giving you a hard time?
Nope. That case is closed. They need to understand that buying a few votes around from unscrupulous officials will not work. It’s illogical to keep going on with their plan; they have no chance of success.
Sooo… 110’s are legal now, right?
Yes, we sent a letter to all federations regarding that issue. Frames remain shorter that 50cm, and a new regulations that we are about to communicate is that skates cannot have less than 3 wheels and no more than 6 wheels.
Nice. But tell me: do you guys at CIC’s discuss this sort of regulations while partying with promiscuous ladies and drinking gallons of booze, or is in there anybody that actually has ANY idea of materials?
Haha! No, we are not able to do that…
You mean, the partying or the regulations?
Very funny. We’ve just created a technical commission leaded by 3 of the most prominent coaches in the world (Note: Lugea, Kwan and… er… Martignon)that will act as consultant for us, supporting CIC in mechanical and procedural matters. Regarding the 100-110 debate, I know the subject very well, been following it for years… We have chosen to wait for a while in order to avoid the expenditures that the federations were facing. For instance, take India. If their federation has to buy wheels for their athletes at every Worlds and if we change our rules every other day, you understand that would be a financial problem for everyone. We also want to homologate frames, but we need to take our time, since the same problem will arise as for wheels.
Oh, yeah? Do you reckon many federations buy the material for their athletes?
I know where you’re going with your question, but don’t consider only the top class skaters: think about the clubs, or even parents. Clubs and parents do buy material for their kids, and if tomorrow we legalize, say 111mm wheels, all the young skaters will want those for sure. If a boy looses a race, you know very well that the cause won’t be his wheels, rather the winner’s wheels, correct?
Er, right. That sounds fair. So, from Worlds 2010 no more concave tracks, then?
That’s right, we want to have our tracks homologated mainly for two reasons: first so all tracks are the same (avoiding the “locals” effect). Secondly, in my opinion (but many coaches think the same) this type of track offers two advantages: it’s faster, and allows for more skaters to cross corners simultaneously. On concave, slippery tracks, there is one and only one line to follow around the bend; on flat tracks there can be 4 skaters in 4 different lanes at the straight, and they can follow those lanes on the bend too. Ultimately, we can standardize personal/continental/world records.
Good to know! When are we having another coaches’ conference? Or should I ask Sabatino? I’m missing certain lady in Rome, you know?
It’s CIC responsibility. We are an independent committee inside FIRS, so those activities are our prerogative. We are planning a seminar next spring.
Great! I’m in!