Ottavio Cinquanta: “You cannot satisfy everybody”

Skating President on World Champs, Team Event, 2018 Race

This interview appears at www.aroundtherings.com, the world’s leading source of news about the Olympics, and is used with permission.


By Matthew Grayson

(ATR) International Skating Union president Ottavio Cinquanta tells Around the Rings the progress present in today’s sport is “creating a monster” for himself and his fellow federation chiefs.

ATR caught up with Cinquanta just before a busy stretch of schedule to discuss preparations for upcoming World Cups, world championships and Olympic Games.

Somewhere in the world, each of skating’s three Winter Olympic disciplines is in full swing this week.

Speed skating held its world championships over the weekend in Calgary and has its penultimate World Cup event later this week in Salt Lake City.

Short track’s World Cup staged its fifth race over the weekend in Moscow and wraps up later this week in Dresden, Germany. Its world champs are slated for March 11-13 in Sheffield, Great Britain.

Top figure skaters from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania are in action this week at the aptly named Four Continents, the rest of the world’s counterpart to the prestigious European championships. Competition kicks off Thursday in Chinese Taipei and runs through Sunday. The world champs follow March 21-27 in Tokyo.

Cinquanta discusses preparations for each in this Tuesday Talk.

Despite his refusal to answer any questions he deemed “too spicy”, the Italian IOC member also hits upon TV rights revenue, Innsbruck 2012 preparations, the 2018 bid race and figure skating’s team event as he lobbies for its addition to the Sochi program after this winter sports season.

Around the Rings: How are preparations coming for the Four Continents and world championships?

Ottavio Cinquanta: The preparation is going quite well. We hope that our figure skating and ice dance, which are very highly technical, difficult sports, will be successful.

We administer a very difficult sport because I know enough about other sports – with all due respect for certain other sports – to say you cannot compare the difficulties between [skating] and doing gymnastics or doing fencing or running the marathon. Technically, one in the marathon can be stronger, under the athletic point of view, but as a technique there is no race.

ATR: What concerns do you have heading into these championships?

OC: The concern I have is that we are an international sport federation, and as with all the other international sport federations, we are governing sport activity based on medals and competitions. That means we have to measure the performance. That means that we cannot limit the progress.

You cannot say: “Ah, you are too fast. You are to reduce your speed ”. No, it’s not possible. I cannot say to a skater you [can only] perform a triple jump, not a quadruple jump because they’d say “If I can do a quadruple jump, why not?”

The point is that today when you are a track and field athlete running the 800m below 1:43, there are not so many. And skaters performing in combination triple, triple and quadruple are not so many.

So the progress, the emancipation, the development of sport is creating a monster where the international sport administrator, as I am, has to pay attention to take care not only of the best one or two but of all the best athletes. Maybe there are 20. When there are 20, there will be the number one and number 20 based on the final results. But if they are all good, my duty is to organize the activity in a way that all the 20 can have that space.

Your question is very very important, especially on the horizon for sport, for the future, because the level today in gymnastics, in basketball, in baseball, in other sports is so high that if you compare the performance of the athletes today with a video over 50 years ago, you can see the difference.

ATR: Figure skating’s team event is up for addition to Sochi this winter. What must it show this winter to win Jacques Rogge’s approval?

OC: Jacques Rogge is a very precise person. He’s a very accurate person. He prefers to wait for the final result of the [2011 World Team Trophy] we are going to have in Yokohama, Japan in April before confirming definitively that in Sochi on the occasion of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games there will be for the first time ever a team event in figure skating. The IOC has already accepted [the event], but this acceptance shall be ratified, as we hope it will, in a couple of months.

We have already confirmed the format. It will be an event in figure skating where 10 countries – the best 10 countries … the best from where? The best from the international activity: the world championships, the Grand Prix and so on – they will enter one man, one lady, one figure-skating pair and one ice-dancing couple, so the grand total for each team will be six skaters for each of the 10 countries.

At the end of the short program and of the free program, the best country will be Olympic champion as a country, as a team and [same goes] for the sake of silver and bronze. Then there will be a day off. They will have time to recover, and then we start the normal individual format competitions.

ATR: How confident are you that the team event will get the nod for Sochi?

OC: I’m confident 97% or 98%, maybe more, because before proposing something, I was very very very careful in verifying all the aspects, and now we propose a good product. Otherwise, it’s useless to propose something. The possibility that we have a team event in Sochi is very very high.

ATR: TV rights revenue has been on the decline for figure skating. What sort of media exposure will the Four Continents have?

OC: Well, the fact is that you are now tackling an area that is pretty important.

One of the problems affecting sport in general is that sport is becoming expensive. So if you want to organize a cross-country skiing event or athletics meet, you need money.

The TV rating and TV rights for figure skating are now following the current not very best financial situation with the world, but nevertheless we are satisfied because we are recognized as one of the most technical, most interesting sports.

Do not forget that figure skating, for instance, is the sport in the world where you will have choreography, costume, music and so on, and speed skating is a very athletic sport where the skater can even skate 10km with a 45 km/h average speed, and in the short distance they can reach 67 or 68 km/h, so in no other sport can you reach so high a speed without mechanical support.

We are satisfied, more or less. It is not the very best moment frankly speaking, but we are satisfied.

ATR: How are preparations coming for Innsbruck 2012?

OC: I am a member of the IOC Coordination Commission for Innsbruck. We are now opening this new page in the history of winter sport for skating and for our winter sport in general, and I have to say that Innsbruck they are doing the utmost. This is an event for the very young because the limit is 14 to 18 years, and now I have to commend the IOC, of which I am a member.

We cover practically through the IOC or through the international sports federations the activity of an individual starting from 13 or 14 years until 70 years or 65 years. That is important.

ATR: In terms of the 2018 race, what is your federation looking for in the bids from Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang?

OC: We are going on the 6th of July to vote upon three candidates: Annecy, Munich and PyeongChang. Two from Europe, one from Asia, and it will be a big fight, you know.

I think that all three could result in a positive step for the development of winter sport. But, of course, as usual, there’s only one winner. The other two, they go home.

I do not know because we, IOC members, we have to vote. We are those deciding upon this candidacy, but we are not permitted to investigate, to be too much active in the area of evaluation, investigation.

The policy of the IOC is to keep those having the right to vote in a very independent position. And therefore, maybe you know better than me.

ATR: Anything else on your radar at the moment?

OC: The problem…there’s not a problem. One of the functions of an IOC member is to understand where the sport is going because sport is developing as any area in the world is developing – medical, pharmaceutical, surgery, so on. And also sport is developing, and new sport. And there is not room enough for everybody. And therefore one difficult situation could be what can we do in the future because to put [limits] in your sport and say sorry to somebody else but there is no space for everybody is not the very best.

But, on the other hand, if you have 16 days and a certain number of events and a certain number of people attending, you cannot satisfy everybody, and this is one of the most important points – one almost demanding decision – that we are confronted with.

An example: the importance of certain, let’s say, items or certain tokens and so on in the past. It was more important 80 years ago than now, so 70 years ago the typewriter was important. Now nobody has a typewriter. All they have is a computer. Same as in sport. Today, in winter sport, snowboard is important. Snowboard 70 years ago did not exist. This is important.

Competitive sport, in my opinion, is the fifth activity for a human being because I repeat the other four: religion, job, education and family.

Allow me to add sport, competitive sport. Competitive is important because when you have somebody crying with a tear on the face, he’s crying because he’s been defeated or he’s crying because he has won. Sport is a good lesson.

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