#sailingolympics – The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decision to drop sailing from the 2020 Paralympics is a wake-up call for the International Sailing Federation (ISAF). While the commentary talks about failures on the part of IFDS, the real issue seems to be sailing's lack of penetration into national sports programmes. Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee, said sailing did "not fulfil the IPC handbook's minimum criteria for worldwide reach."
Last October, Water Rat commented as follows about the modern sailing world: ISAF is still very much a white, first world, wealthy organisation, with little outreach to the developing world. The same is true of the International Federation for Disabled Sailing. And all the participating countries can complain all they like, but until more disabled sailing programmes are established in the developing world their pleas will fall on deaf ears. It is tough to establish such programmes when equipment and access are such an important part of getting afloat, but such is the reality.
Is there a parallel with mainstream sailing. Well, it's not just about numbers, because ISAF has those with 140+ affiliated Member National Authorities, but many of those don't turn up at events, The Youth Worlds, for example, gets about 60 MNAs participating, well less than half the total affiliated number. Squash, one of the candidate sports for 2020 has a similar amount and although another of the candidate sports, softball has less, they have much greater activity in the developing nations in Africa and central America and Caribbean. Wushu, a martial art candidate sport, claims 147 affiliated nations.
And while it is not believed that sailing is under serious threat for 2024, it is not currently because of its lack of universality, rather that it is lower down the list than say, equestrian, synchronised swimming or pentathlon. Indeed pressure may come off sailing as some sports are facing dropping disciplines in an attempt to make the games more relevant, Athletics could well lose walking and triple jump for example, while rhythmic gymnastics could also go.
However, neither the paralympic or the mainstream sailing community will be impressed by ISAF's latest statement regarding their review of the IPC decision, which, albeit perhaps unintentionally, suggests that ISAF has accepted the IPC's 2020 decision and intends to concentrate on 2024 re-instatement. It is to be hoped that ISAF are now alive to the pressures on sailing's survival as an Olympic Sport.