Olympic Solidarity Program Shows Growth Ahead of Rio 2016 -- On the Scene

(ATR) Also: ANOC leaders allay Ebola concerns ... Armenia set for Baku 2015.

(ATR) The director of Olympic Solidarity says that they have received around 1,500 scholarship requests ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Pere Miro spoke to Around the Rings about the success of the Olympic Solidarity scholarship program after a commission meeting ahead of the Association of National Olympic Committee executive board and general assembly in Bangkok.

Miro advised that between 110 and 120 NOCs have applied for scholarships, showing the "program is going really well."

"I suspect that we have probably the double of requests that we got from London, and I hope that many of these athletes will be in the Games," Miro told ATR.

Launched ahead of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, the Olympic Solidarity scholarship program provides assistance to athletes throughout the Olympic qualification process.

Originally for small, developing NOCs, the scholarship program has grown to include "medium and bigger sized NOCs for some particular sports that they cannot sustain," according to the Spaniard Miro, who as served as the chairman of Olympic solidarity since 1997.

"I really believe for Rio that probably the majority of the 204 NOCs will receive in some manner some assistance for the athletes concerning the possibilities for qualification."

The Olympic Solidarity Program also assisted and delivered results to numerous winter athletes competing at the Sochi Games.

Eleven customized grants and 440 scholarship opportunities were afforded to winter athletes seeking to compete at the Sochi Games. More than 50 Olympians in Sochi directly benefited from the program with 17 athletes winning medals.

Miro commented how the program has also helped nations at previous Winter Games as more NOCs realize the potential benefits.

"For summer, we’ve got the tradition that started already for Sydney, but we’ve also had an impact on Winter Games," Miro said.

"The first occasion was in Torino, as we started as a kind of test, but [we continued] afterwards in Vancouver and Sochi.

"It’s not the same level as summer for sure, as you know the proportion in general, but we got requests that we cover around 60 or 70 NOCs in some manner, so its not bad for Winter Games."

In a video shown during the meeting highlighting various athletes who benefited from the program in Sochi, Ukrainian biathlete Valya Semerenko commented, "I am very grateful for the Olympic Solidarity Program and the opportunities it has given me."

Semerenko, along with her sister Vita, propelled Ukraine to a gold medal in the women’s biathlon relay, while also earning a bronze in the 7.5k event.

ANOC Leaders Allay Ebola Concerns

ANOC president Sheikh Ahmad and Medical Commission chairman Robin Mitchell expressed their complete faith that the Thai authorities will take all necessary precautions regarding Ebola concerns in Bangkok.

"So far, we are happy with the arrangements for the meeting based on the World Health Organization recommendations," Mitchell said.

"With Ebola, it was to provide enough information to NOCs before they came, which was done through the ANOC conference. We keep in close contact through the IOC through World Health with all the various requirements.

"Coming through the system, we see that it's already working, but it can only work as long as the people involved go up voluntarily for the screenings. I think as long as people are careful and follow the recommendations, they should be okay."

Affected African nations Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are all expected to send representatives to the ANOC general assembly taking place Friday and Saturday in the Thai capital.

Armenia to Compete at Baku 2015

European Olympic Committee president Patrick Hickey advised that following a visit to the Republic of Armenia, the country would participate the first European Games.

IOC president Thomas Bach accompanied Hickey to Armenia, where the pair brokered a solution on a visit to the Armenian NOC

Armenia has been locked in a border dispute with Azerbaijan in Ngaro-Karababakh, and their participation has been in question.

Hickey noted that with Kosovo’s pending approval as an NOC at next month’s IOC extraordinary session in Monaco, the total amount of European NOCs would be 50.

Written by Aaron Bauer and Brian Pinelli in Bangkok

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