World Rowing Congress Approves Gender Equal Program -- On the Scene

(ATR) Host cities, council re-elections and sport program changes all approved at expedited World Rowing Congress. Kevin Nutley reports.

(ATR) All future World Rowing Championships will have complete gender equality thanks to an approved proposal by National Federations during the 2017 World Rowing Congress.

Led by World Rowing President and new IOC member Jean-Christophe Rolland, the congress decided to keep in line with the IOC and its goal to have complete gender equality at the Olympics and Paralympics. Several changes to the boat classes were presented after months of feedback from the NFs, but in the end the proposals recommended by the Council were approved by the congress.

The IOC Executive Board decision in June to decrease the athlete quota for rowing at the Tokyo 2020 Games fueled the need for change at the federation’s world championships. Rolland added that the IOC will continue to review the sport’s position in the Games with an eye towards Paris 2024 and a particular emphasis on the lightweight disciplines.

Rolland stressed that World Rowing will continue to coordinate with the IOC and its National Federations to ensure the sport maintains a strong position within the Olympics, an effort that will likely be bolstered by the presence of three IOC members on the World Rowing Council – Rolland, Vice President Tricia Smith and Honorary Life President Denis Oswald.

"We won't give up, we know how critical lightweight is for our sport," Rolland told the congress.

The approval of the new championship boat classes was the only proposal that faced any opposition during the expedited three-hour congress. This was expected by Rolland, who a day before the congress told Around the Rings he anticipated "no surprises" when the federation convened on Oct. 2.

"We have been in this process for a few months so I expect we will have good discussions," Rolland told ATR at the conclusion of the Sarasota 2017 World Championships. "We have been very close to the federations throughout this process for a few months so there will be no surprises. But we will make some key decisions."

His expectations were spot on. All of the World Rowing Council’s proposals were adopted by the congress, with several decisions made with unanimous approval. One such decision was maintaining the current World Rowing Executive Council with Rolland at the helm.

Rolland, Vice President Tricia Smith, Treasurer Mike Williams, Athletes’ Commission chair Lenka Dienstbach-Wech, Umpiring Commission chair Patrick Rombaut and Events Commission chair Mike Tanner were all unanimously approved to lead the federation for another term.

The reelection of Rolland ensured he continues as an IOC member for at least four more years as his membership is tied to his leadership of an International Federation.

The only contested election of the congress came with the host city of the 2020 World Rowing Senior, U23 and Junior Championships, a combined format that will continue following a successful edition in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2016.

While three bidders entered the day, Plovdiv, Bulgaria withdrew before the final vote due to its need to build a back-channel for its venue – a guarantee that had not been made to World Rowing in time for the election. That left Poznan, Poland and Bled, Slovenia as the remaining contestants, with the congress electing Bled to host the event with 94 votes to Poznan’s 57.

Shanghai, China emerged as the sole bidder for the 2021 World Rowing Championships and received unanimous approval to host the event. Host city contracts were signed by Bled and Shanghai organizers during the congress.

The meeting also approved the membership applications of Cambodia and Guinea, bringing World Rowing’s total membership to 153 National Federations.

Rolland closed the congress by thanking the membership for their support and trust in his leadership abilities. He also thanked the organizers of the Sarasota 2017 World Rowing Championships and annual congress that took place at the Polo Grill and Bar.

"The world of sport is rocked by many scandals but you can count on us to continue our dedication to defend sport," he concluded.

Reported by Kevin Nutley in Sarasota, Florida.

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