Denis Oswald - President, International Rowing Federation Share PDF Print E-mail
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Denis Oswald is the current President of the International Rowing Federation (FISA) and IOC member.

Oswald began his sports background as an Olympic rower winning the Bronze medal in the 1968 Olympics on board the Swiss boat.

He then transitioned to FISA President in 1989 and became an IOC member in 1991. Since 2000 he has been a member of the IOC's Executive Board and chaired IOC's coordination committee for the 2004 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

In May 2013, Denis Oswald confirmed that he would run for President of the IOC.

By Ismail Uddin

You used to be an Olympic medallist in rowing. How easy was it to transition into the FISA organisation?

The previous President of FISA Thomas Keller came to see me at an international regatta in 1975 and told me: “We have a tradition in rowing : the athletes become the leaders. When you stop competing, I want you to join FISA and become my successor.” In 1977, after my third Olympic Games in Montreal, I became secretary general of FISA and served 12 years with Keller as President. Progressively, I learned my job. He was an internationally respected leader and this gave me a lot of opportunities to be involved in specific cases and negotiations. This, added to my legal background and activities, prepared me well to take over. The transition therefore was easy because when I became President, I was ready.

You have been the President of the International Rowing Federation since 1989. What have you learnt in your role there?

I have learned to lead a group of people from different origins, backgrounds and nationalities, and an increasing number of national federations with the goal to make what the best for our athletes and our sport. Keller was doing a lot himself which had been possible for many years but was becoming difficult with a big increase in the workload.

You are also currently in charge at FISA on a temporary basis. What sparked the desire to leave?

As President of FISA, I am a volunteer. We have an age limit for all functions at FISA which was 65 and which has recently been raised to 70. Taking into account that I started rather young and that I have been in my position for a long time, I felt it was appropriate to leave a bit before the age limit. This will give me the opportunity to work some time with my successor and make sure that he or she does not start from scratch. We will, therefore, have a smooth transition.

What is the next step for FISA?

We will have a new President in about one year.  I realise it is not easy to take over from a President who has been in place for 24 years and who has occupied different international positions in sport. However, we have three excellent candidates, and I am convinced that whoever is elected we will have excellent leadership, a smooth transition and our sport will continue to progress. Around the President we have an excellent council composed of very qualified volunteers and an experienced professional staff.  What has been achieved in the past years by FISA will not disappear and rowing will continue to grow.

As an IOC member for 22 years now, do you feel you are well equipped to take the biggest job at the IOC?

During my time at the IOC, I have occupied a number of important positions in addition to being President of FISA : for 12  years I was member of the IOC Executive Board, I was Chairman of the coordination commissions for Athens 2004 and London 2012 Olympic Games, I was 12 years president of ASOIF,  and serve on several IOC commissions. Not many people can claim to have such broad, international experience in the Olympic Movement. I have also shown my leadership in these different activities and it is why I fell appropriate to offer my services to the Olympic Movement.

Why were you initially interested in the IOC Presidency and why now?

Now because our President is at the end of his term. I was mainly interested because the higher you are in the hierarchy, the better you can promote your ideas, your vision of sport, in my case, my vision of a clean sport based on ideals.

Your manifesto includes Five Main themes. Tell us a bit more about them?

I wanted to express my thoughts in a very concise and straight way, therefore, I chose to use five main areas. I wanted to show that my approach to the IOC presidency would be pragmatic and realistic. The five themes are : Vision, values, mission, structure and functioning, our games.

1.        The First Ring: Vision

My first ring proposes a general philosophy that should be the foundation for our actions. In effect, it is essential that an organisation such as the IOC knows clearly where it wants to go and what objectives it wants to achieve in the short, medium and long term. We must, therefore, base our work on a vision.

2.        The Second Ring : Values

The Olympic Movement represents more than just the Olympic Games. It includes moral and educational values that must, in particular, serve to develop youth. These values are many. Those that I consider to be the most important and that would form the foundation of my actions are respect, inclusion, character building and education.

3.        The Third Ring : Mission

The IOC, as the leader of world sport, must take on several missions: Some of them are:

a.         Promote and put into action the fundamental values of respect, inclusion, character building and education.

b.        Be a role model for the world of sport based on its ethics and integrity, and its transparency and good governance.

c.         Pursue the fight against doping, with a policy of zero-tolerance using, in particular, better targeted testing, a strengthened cooperation with public authorities and a redefined mission of WADA. The fight against doping represents a moral obligation to all “clean” athletes.

d.        Ensure that the Olympic Games are organised with the highest quality for the best athletes in the world.

e.        Place the athletes at the heart of all our strategies and decisions,.

4.        The Fourth Ring : Structure and Operations

My fourth ring addresses the status of the members as well as the structure and internal operations of our organisation. I have presented several ideas that would give the members a larger role in the activities of our Movement and allow us to be more effective.

5.        The Fifth Ring : Our Games

The Olympic Movement represents more than just the Games but they are essential and constitute our main asset.

a.         The Games are unique and must remain so. They represent much more than a collection of world championships. It is critical that we maintain and strengthen the characteristics that make them different and special (the magic of the Games, tradition, ideals, stadia without advertising, our values, balance between excellence and universality).

b.        We must protect our Games and prevent the establishment of new events with the same or similar format that could lessen the significance and prestige of the Games. 

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