Jean-Christophe Rolland - President, FISA Share PDF Print E-mail
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Jean-Christophe is much involved in Sport, participating at 6 Olympic Games, 3 as an athlete in Rowing (Barcelona 1992-4th, Atlanta 1996-Bronze, Sydney 2000-Gold) and 3 as an official.

Jean-Christophe has been elected at the International Rowing Federation since 1994, first as member and then Chair (2002-2011) of the Athletes Commission.

Jean-Christophe has also been a member of the Council since 2002 and was elected President of FISA to succeed to Denis Oswald in July 2014.

By Tariq Saleh

You took over from Denis Oswald as President of FISA. How have you adapted to the new role?

As you know, I was elected last September 2013 but officially took over from Denis Oswald on 12 July this year. This planned transition period as President-elect has been really useful to learn from Denis and to build the necessary networks in the world of sport. We took every opportunity to be introduced to the key people and organisations. I must say that it was a great and efficient way to move into the new role.

I can say that it is going well and that I am doing my best to match the dedication, passion and motivation that Denis gave to the position. Last month I experienced my first World Championships in Amsterdam and first annual Congress as President of FISA. Of course, I am still in the first year and therefore I am learning. I am fortunate to have the necessary time to give to the job and am working hard at it.

What have been the initial challenges for you since you stepped into the presidency?

First of all, the position of president is a political role. You have to lead your organisation to ensure the most sustainable future for your sport for the next decades. I have a clear vision and I must share it with our people, with the members of FISA, our National Federations, and also, and as importantly, with the world of sport and within the Olympic Movement.

To do so I have to be recognised as the President. Denis was well-known, had fantastic experience and an exceptional background. I have been learning quickly and am ready to take my place in the world of sport.

Did Mr. Oswald prepare you for the role? Did he discuss the work that needed to be done when you took over?

I have been involved in FISA since 1994 and have held different roles in our organisation. Through Denis, I have learnt a lot and especially since I decided to run for the presidency. In addition, during the transition period, as President-elect, we took all opportunities to ensure a smooth and efficient changeover.

How have you stamped your mark as President of FISA, have you done anything differently?

Obviously, I am not Denis Oswald! I’m a different person with a different background, a different personality and a different leadership style. Therefore I will make changes, but it will be more of an evolution than a revolution.

In terms of sharing the vision for the sport and the future of the sport, I have similarities to Denis, that’s why I don’t think it’s a revolution. However I will bring my own personality in the way I connect with sports federations, with the member federations of FISA, the Council and the Executive Committee. Time will tell about the differences between the past and now.

Rowing has recently been added to the Southeast Asian Games for 2015. What are your feelings about the news?

It’s obviously good news. Rowing has been in many Sea Games in the past and were already at the 2013 Southeast Asian Games held in Myanmar but this was not a guarantee for the next edition. I must say that it is not just luck, but actually the result of our strategy to ensure that rowing is part of multi-sport events worldwide.

So I’m really pleased that we will be part of these Games and it’s the same for the other continental events like the Central American and Caribbean Games, the Asian Games… to name a few. It is important that our sport is present in all these events.

Is Asia an important market for FISA to grow the sport in?

Of course, Asia is of utmost importance. I have just returned from the Asian Games in Korea. I attended the Asian Rowing Federation Congress (our continental federation, the ARF) to express my full support for the development of rowing in the region.  The ARF is very active and, for FISA, Asia is a key dimension in terms of rowing development.

Adding lightweight rowing to the Olympics in 1996 was part of our universality and development strategy.  It helped to get more Asian countries affiliated to FISA because they have a better chance to participate at the Olympics in the lightweight boat classes. This strategy has been successful and we still want to increase rowing activities in Asia.

Which territories need an extra push for rowing to grow and how is FISA helping?

Development is a crucial dimension for FISA. Universality is a key criteria for the Olympic movement.  We started this journey when we founded the Development Programme in 1985 and we have increased the number of associated rowing nation members of FISA from 60 in the '90s to 142 today. It is still essential for us to grow both the number of affiliated countries and the level of rowing activities.

Currently we are looking to new rowing countries in Oceania and in the Caribbean. These are mainly islands where traditional rowing is not currently very accessible. Coastal rowing is actually a great opportunity to push rowing in these parts of the world.

But it’s not just about having the numbers of countries on the paper, hence part of our development strategy is also about improving rowing activities. We have projects in developing countries in Africa and in Latin America.

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