The first woman president of the Mexican Olympic Committee, Olympian María José Alcalá, will also have to face the effects on sport of the health crisis.
“The pandemic changed all of our lives. I lost my father last January to Covid. He was a doctor, he was 82 years old, but he was still taking care of his sick and he got infected, he never wanted to stop working,” Alcalá reveals to Around The Rings.
“But now we must ensure that athletes and their coaches are vaccinated. In case of a new wave of contagion, we must make sure that their training space becomes a ‘bubble’ immediately so that they don’t lose their preparation. The challenge is very big.”
The former diver, finalist in the Olympic Games of Seoul 88, Barcelona 92, Atlanta 96 and Sydney 2000, medalist in regional Games and winner of the National Sports Award, left for Cali, Colombia, together with her country’s delegation that will compete in the First Pan American Junior Games starting this Thursday.
The Mexican expedition has 290 athletes who will compete in 29 disciplines.
Before leaving for the Colombian city, Alcalá declared that she will also attend the General Assembly of Panam Sports to be “at the service of the entire Pan American family” after her recent election as head of the COM.
Alcalá is also a federal deputy for the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico, a member of the ruling coalition, and is president of the Sports Commission of the legislative chamber.
- Will you resign from that position to focus on the direction of the COM?
- I have no legal impediment to continue as a federal deputy and at the head of the commission. But apart from that, it is about organization, about building good teams to make the changes easier for us, which I am already doing in the COM. And in the Legislature I have clear obligations. Leaving the Commission would be giving up a space, and from there we have to give continuity to Mexico’s sports. The group of deputies that make up the Commission is plural, but interested in the development of our sport, with the purpose of reviewing the legal framework so that the Law of Physical Culture and Sport is up to the challenges. I have no intention of bringing any political issue to my function in the COM. I can continue with my work without the need to miss Congress sessions or neglect the COM. I am not afraid of work, I am a woman who likes to work, to leave my mark.
- What are your immediate plans?
- I made a commitment to all the associates to a great transparency, to an open-door, inclusive policy. We have to urge businessmen to support us, but they have to clearly check where those resources go. We must update the statutes in line with the Olympic Charter, modernize the regulations regarding the electoral process, the integration of the national teams, and marketing. Everything that means more legal certainty and where we have very clear our rights and obligations. To become economically independent from the government. It is not because we are fighting or because we have a difference, but because it is necessary. We do not want it to feel like a rejection. We will continue to be interlocutors between Olympism and the government, for sure.
- Will you have a meeting soon with Ana Gabriela Guevara, the director of the National Sports Commission (Conade)?
- I hope so. We will always be very respectful of Conade, I will never get into a dispute, a fight, because that does not bring anything to sport, what we will always defend is a dignified treatment. I will always recognize Ana Gabriela Guevara’s leadership, but each one of us, from our own sphere of collaboration, will have to understand that times have changed and that we are all part of this change and of the development and promotion of sport, not only of high performance, but of sport for all.
- Do you have concerns about COM unity after these elections?
- I am making a concerted effort for unity. I am talking to everyone. I am a very inclusive woman who comes from the culture of effort. I lived in Tlatelolco in 1985 when we lost our house to the earthquake. I understood what citizen participation was, what it was to build community. Later, as an athlete, I suffered a very severe accident, I fell completely on my back from the 10-meter platform, I passed out in the diving pit, all my teammates tucked me in, and I was in the hospital for a week. All those events and others helped me understand what collective work is during my 20 years as a diver until my retirement in Sydney. Now, both the other candidate, Norma Olivia Gonzalez and I, agreed that the secret ballot was necessary, because it was going to change the destiny of the COM.
- No fracture then?
- There is no concern with fractures in the COM. If we achieved an exemplary assembly 10 days ago, where there were differences, unquestionably, but we showed democratic maturity, how can we not work together from now on? In less than three years we will have the Olympic Games in Paris. I am sure we will all make an effort to take a firm but quick step and involve the athletes and coaches in all the changes. As a former Olympian myself, I must help the athletes to fulfill their dream.