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27 May 2003
IOC News

Olympic Review makes stories

The re-vamped Olympic Review seems to be making headlines around the world, not least in Great Britain where an excerpt from the magazine has created a lead story in today's Guardian newspaper and subsequent spin off stories on radio and TV.

The issue at hand concerns a discussion between four-time gold medallist in swimming, Alexander Popov and IOC President Jacques Rogge, on the subject of the quality of athletes who compete in the Olympic Games. Asked in the special feature interview, which takes an unusual slant whereby 'athlete interviews athlete, ' Popov asks the President, "In Sydney we saw examples of athletes representing countries who were given wild cards, but were not up to Olympic standard. Will we see this situation recur in Athens?"

Rogge's reply is clear. "We want to avoid what happened in swimming in Sydney," he said. "The public loved it, but I did not like it. We have to respect the athletes. The Olympic Games are a mixture of pure quality, that is the best athletes in the world, and at the same time athletes of a lesser quality who achieve universality. If you decide to have only the best ones, then you maybe only have fifty per cent of the nations participating, so you need to give some universality. However, the level of those people must be raised, and that is what we are going to do with Olympic Solidarity."

Indeed through Olympic Solidarity, some US$13,700,000 is being invested in two year training grants for athletes so that they can access high level training centres and coaching experts. Olympic Solidarity works to offer the athletes the best possible environment in which they can nurture their talent and thereby qualify of their own merit for the Olympic Games. Competition costs are also financed to ensure that the athletes are able to participate in the official Olympic qualification events.

In his answer to Popov, Rogge continued, "In the past we made the error to select these athletes at the very last moment. A country would say, "We have no qualified athletes, can we bring in a wild card?" And these athletes were not trained enough. They were not good enough. Now, we've asked all the countries that are likely not to have qualified athletes to send them to foreign training centres, or country training centres, two years beforehand. We will give them a lot of support, and in two years time we can raise their levels, so these situations will not arise again."

The Olympic Solidarity training programme aims to reach three objectives, namely to ensure that National Olympic Committees from each country can send duly qualified athletes to the Games without having to resort to invitation places, second, as a consequence, guarantee the universality of the Olympic Games and third, to create a 'level playing field' so that athletes from developing countries have the same training opportunities as those from developed sporting nations.

The Olympic scholarship programme has been running since the Barcelona Games and prior to Sydney 2000, some 632 athletes were helped by the scheme of which 472 qualified from 111 National Olympic Committees.

Also important to note is that wild cards do still exist - but athletes who are given wild cards must reach a minimum technical sporting standard, as outlined by the relevant International Federation.

About Olympic Solidarity

About the new Olympic Review
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