Now that the dust has settled on the 2017 SportAccord General Assembly, it is the ideal time to reflect on what we achieved in Aarhus and look ahead to the future of what has become the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF).
The change of name, which was unanimously agreed at our General Assembly, is far more than symbolic. It has a real practical purpose in separating the operations of our association of sports bodies from the commercial activities of its annual SportAccord Convention and of any events, services and activities which we may wish to develop in line with our statutory objectives. In effect, SportAccord has become GAISF’s highly distinctive operating brand while the GAISF name - just one syllable in English – crystallises who we are and what we are for.
In fact, much of the last year has been spent considering what GAISF is really for and developing structures to ensure that the body is best able to meet its objectives. If we were quiet - or perceived as such - during that time it is because of the complexity of that process and the need to consult with many different stakeholders and individuals.
Only when we have had the chance to discuss key issues - as we discussed the proposed Independent Testing Authority (ITA) in Aarhus - can we understand the needs and the concerns of our members. Only then can we make sense as the voice for all sport.
The exchanges over the last year and in Aarhus also underscore my belief that GAISF is, and should remain, first and foremost a forum for the International Federations (IFs) and for all our members to discuss common issues. As one group with daily activities through our national members in every country, we affect the life of millions of sportsmen and women.
GAISF is a service provider for all recognised international sports federations and organisations. Our objective is to help “aspirant IFs” to become part of the global IF Family to welcome them, to support and nourish them as they grow and develop. We aim to guide as many as possible to realise their aspiration of a place on the Youth Olympic Games and/or Olympic Games programs.
Therefore, we have the responsibility to operate effectively within the Olympic eco-system in order to provide the keys to this elevator with tailored services for each floor. And we have to do so without duplicating what is already done more effectively by some of our very specialized and expert stakeholders’ umbrella groups.
Along the way, GAISF will continue assisting its members in critical areas such as anti-doping with our dedicated unit DFSU (Doping Free Sport Unit) and support the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA in their work on reforming the anti-doping system.
Other services will follow suit in a tailored way and we remain enthusiastic about the value of organising specialized multi-sports Games which provide a showcase and global platform for many member IFs and their non-Olympic disciplines, which they would otherwise struggle to achieve.
But we will take time to ensure we deliver the right Games in the right place at the right time and with the right content and structure to fit into the international calendar and best serve our members in their aspiration to reach higher levels.
Another example of a planned service is the project on governance initiated by ASOIF. I believe this is a must for all of the GAISF members and we will build on the ASOIF experience, once ready and replicable, and adopt a governance assistance process that will help all other IFs address any internal shortcomings, share best practices and/or simply help them grow in an efficient and healthy way.
In fact, even before a new IF becomes a member, GAISF’s role will be to address such issues already with applicants. The creation of an Observer status for applicant Federations, which was approved unanimously in Aarhus, provides a clear pathway to full membership and a recognised place in the global sports family. That also provides a sense of responsibility and clarity, which was previously missing and underscores our mission as one voice for all sport.
Over the years, GAISF has been portrayed as some sort of counter-balance to the IOC, of which I am, of course, a member.
I certainly don’t think of it in those adversarial and ultimately self-defeating terms. GAISF is part of the Olympic world and has always been. As such it needs to continue to work with and alongside the IOC for the good of all sport.
Of course, we have a point of view - possibly even more than one, given the nature and sizes of our diverse membership. But it is the role of the leadership and of the GAISF Council to extract the common messages, to defend these interests within the appropriate forums and to represent the interests of the IFs in the most effective way we can within the Olympic Movement, alongside the National Olympic Committees, and to further the cause of all.
And we will continue to have a strong and listened-to voice within that Movement precisely because we are a respected and trusted part of the Family and not set up as an external pressure group.
We are about building bridges and getting our members up in the elevator towards the Olympic floors. The changes to our statutes which members unanimously agreed in Aarhus are central to our ability to best serve the members by ensuring stability and a clear and continuing sense of purpose.
The introduction of a rotating two-year Presidency shared between the umbrella groups representing Olympic and non-Olympic sports gives means that no one group will ever be able to hijack the voice for all sport and all of them are bound together by it. As in Alexandre Dumas famous novel, GAISF is about One for All and All for One.
Similarly, our predecessors, in 1921, aimed at “creating bonds of lasting friendship between all” and were convinced that only together “the cause of sport throughout the world would be greatly benefited”.
That means real continuity and stability.
Aarhus 2017 closed a book in the history of our organisation which tested our boundaries, role and responsibilities. This was a natural and probably even necessary period of time.
It’s been suggested that in becoming GAISF we are somehow going backwards. Well, we may have taken time to take-stock but we’re now set to stride confidently into the future. And, from where I stand, if we are able to provide the best environment every single day for the athletes in our respective sports, it is a bright future full of exciting developments for sport, for the IFs, for GAISF and for the Olympic movement altogether.