Wake­board ‘can be the snow­board­ing of the sum­mer Olympics’ if it makes 2020 break­through

Sportcal - - CONTENTS - by Jonathan Rest

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

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