Wakeboard ‘can be the snowboarding of the summer Olympics’ if it makes 2020 breakthrough
The International Waterski & Wakeboard Federation believes cable wakeboarding can mirror the success of snowboarding in the winter Olympic Games if its own sport is successful in its bid to be included on the programme for the 2020 summer games.
Wakeboard is one of eight sports - baseball, karate, roller sports, softball, sports climbing, squash and wushu are the others – to have been nominated for possible inclusion, when an existing Olympic sport could be replaced.
The IWWF, which has set up a dedicated taskforce, ‘Wakeboard 2020 Vision’, hopes its youthful reputation will stand it in good stead when the International Olympic Committee makes a decision on the 2020 programme in September 2013.
Snowboarding has taken the winter Olympics by storm since its debut in 1998 and was one of the most popular sports at the 2010 games in Vancouver. New disciplines are being added to the programme, including slopestyle and parallel special slalom, which will make their debut at the 2014 winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
The IOC’s desire to evolve the Olympic sports programme to appeal to younger audiences has given the IWWF confidence that cable wakeboarding could spring a surprise and pip more widely-recognised sports such as karate, baseball and squash to the post in 2020.
Kuno Ritschard, president of the IWWF, explained: “Since being shortlisted by the IOC in July 2011, I have had some very good and encouraging talks with the Olympic Movement. It was good to hear that many feel the same as we do: that wakeboard can bring the same positive effect to the summer Olympics as snowboard does for the winter games.
“Wakeboard is an exciting youth-focused lifestyle sport with real global attraction. It is well organised, has proven television appeal and satisfies all legacy and environmental requirements.”
The IWWF was no doubt buoyed by IOC president Jacques Rogge’s assessment of the new winter sports disciplines for the 2014 games.
He said: “They are very attractive for young people, something they practice a lot. It’s like the summer games, when we added mountain bike and BMX. We have to do this on a regular basis, otherwise we lose relevance.”
Ritschard hopes this outlook benefits wakeboard when the IOC considers the sports competing for a place in the 2020 Olympics, saying: “Those who remember the excitement of snowboard in Vancouver will be equally impressed by wakeboard in the summer games. This would certainly satisfy the IOC’s concern to grow its global youth audience and, at the same time, surprise all with this new innovation for the games.
“As snowboard brought a whole new dimension to the winter Olympics, we believe that wakeboard can do even more for the summer Olympics as it is not just dependent on a limited geographical region of the world and its climate.”
He continued: “We believe we were shortlisted because of the urgent IOC requirement at this time to appeal to a much larger global male and female youth audience, to add genuine new excitement to the games, to provide TV with activities which thrill their worldwide audiences and somehow to achieve all of this in both an environmental and cost effective way.”
As well as overseeing a sport that appeals to a young, digitally-driven generation – the federation has its own wakeboard channel on YouTube and a page on Facebook – the IWWF claims that wakeboarding fulfils certain criteria in the Olympic Charter, notably the IOC’s role to “encourage and support a responsible concern for environmental issues, to promote sustainable development in sport and to require that the Olympic Games are held accordingly and to promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries.”
According to Ritschard, “any examination of cable wakeboard facilities and their events shows clearly that wakeboard satisfies all of these requirements rather than just a few of them.”
He claimed that the relatively cheap cost of constructing a cable wakeboard site – around $1 million, excluding costs associated with securing land - will provide not only a legacy benefit for the sport, but also a quick return on investment for host cities.
Ritschard said: “We believe legacy is one of the strongest reasons for the inclusion of wakeboard in the 2020 Olympic Games.
“Only a relatively small low-cost, man-made lake facility or an existing water stretch would be required. A cable wakeboard site has some outstanding features – it is environmentally very friendly as only electric power is involved, has low installation costs and a high return on investment – and all of these factors remain for the host city post the Olympic Games.
“Most of the cable parks have a return on investment of four to five years. This is a healthy, youth-focused opportunity to create a profitable business and leave a genuine legacy facility in place for the future.”
A key criterion for the IOC’s Olympic Programme Commission when assessing a new sport is its universality and the IWWF believes wakeboard’s participation figures and geographical reach may surprise sceptics.
Ritschard said: “Cableways exist in five continents. There are 415 cable parks already in place and this is estimated to grow by around 57 per cent to 2020. However, if selected as the
“The combination of a welldesigned and relatively small man-made water arena and the closeness of the spectators to the action creates a natural amphitheatre for very exciting TV coverage.”
new sport by the IOC in 2013, this growth rate will certainly be greatly exceeded.”
The IWWF has 95 national member federations around the world, including Turkey, Spain and Japan, for which Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo, respectively, are the three cities bidding to host the 2020 games.
It also claims to have 52,000 athletes competing in biennial world and annual continental championships, as well as 30 million active participants.
The next edition of the Cable Wakeboard and Wakeskate European Championship is scheduled to take place in Toulouse, France in September and record numbers of participants and spectators are expected.
The biennial Cable Wakeboard World Championships are also taking place in 2012, with the Philippines hosting the event from November 6 to 11. The 2014 World Championships have already been awarded to Sauherad in Norway.
Aware of the need to maximise Olympic revenues, the IWWF has been eager to demonstrate to the IOC the growing interest in its sport among broadcasters and commercial partners.
Ritschard said: “Wakeboarding is perfect for television; it can offer the dramatic backdrop to event coverage similar to snowboarding in Vancouver.
“The combination of a well-designed and relatively small man-made water arena and the closeness of the spectators to the action creates a natural amphitheatre for very exciting TV coverage.
“Globally, sponsors are focusing more and more on youth-driven lifestyle sports. Already, some major brands are involved on a countryby-country basis. Sports equipment and clothing manufacturers and sports drinks producers are already involved and Olympic recognition will only serve to grow this further.”
For now, the buzzword for the IWWF is ‘exposure’. The ‘Wakeboard 2020 Vision’ taskforce has already been successful in getting cable wakeboard onto the Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup series for the first time, ensuring greater visibility on television.
In addition, the sport’s presence at the 2013 Mediterranean Games in Mersin and the World Games in Cali will keep the sport on the radar of IOC members ahead of the crucial vote in Buenos Aires, Argentina in September of next year.
Kuno Ritschard IWWF President