At the beginning of this year ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti took over the presidency of ASOIF, the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations. Olympic journalist Sebastian Fest interviewed Ricci Bitti at the recent IOC Session in Buenos Aires to find out more about the role and the organization.
Sebastian Fest: You are the ASOIF president, but not many
people really know what ASOIF is. Can you explain it briefly?
Francesco Ricci Bitti: ASOIF is the Association of Summer
Olympic International Federations. Our mission is to take care of
the common interests of all the sports federations involved in the
summer Games. It looks a simple statement but it is challenging
to manage. ASOIF interacts with other stakeholders in the
Olympic movement, the IOC itself, National Olympic Committees
and Organising Committees for the Games.
SF: You’ve been yourself an IOC member, you know very well
how things work there. Now, being outside of the IOC and the
ASOIF president, how’s your relationship with the IOC?
FRB: I have a very good relationship, a very good one. But I
believe in general that the role of the International Federations is
undervalued. Our job is to improve this situation. We are an
essential partner, especially for the organisation of the Games.
SF: Are you asking for more power for ASOIF?
FRB: It is not a matter of power, but of respect for the IF roles and
contributions. The International Federations manage sport day by day,
the Olympic sports. They have the appropriate knowledge and they
are essential to the organisation of the Games.
SF: After many years as the ITF president, how do you compare
both positions? What is the difference between being the ITF
president and the ASOIF president?
FRB: The ITF is my primary job and it is very important to me.
Being president of ASOIF is an honour and requires less of my
time. It is still very important because it includes managing the
relationship within the Olympic family. ASOIF’s role is to represent
on matters of common interest, serve and be available to all of our
members from small federations to the largest ones like FIFA.
SF: There is something you’ve been insisting a lot during the last
few years: the IOC policy in terms of setting a limit of 28 sports
at the Games is a limitation.
FRB: Our position is very clear on the programme. We don’t think
that the solution to make the Games more sustainable is to cut out
sports. The solution is to look inside each discipline. We have never
liked the process by which sports are included and excluded. This
is not in anyone’s best interests. We believe that the IOC has many
different tools to improve the effectiveness of the International
Federations so that they are managed according to good
governance principles. I think that everybody now understands
what I’ve been saying for years. They even talk about the “Ricci
SF: Also Thomas Bach, the new IOC president?
FRB: This is surely one of the challenges for the new president.
He will have to take a direction. And with the present economic
downturn, it is even more important to make sure that organising
an Olympic Games is an attractive proposition from the perspective
of the bidding cities to the end result of the fan experience. If we do
not look after this, we risk not having enough good bids for the
Games and this would be disastrous.
SF: To add more sports to the Games could be seen as a way to
stop SportAccord President Marius Vizer’s project of the World
Games. Do you agree?
FRB: I don’t like to talk about dreams or projects that are not
finalised. If the project becomes reality, then we can comment on
the complexity and feasibility. Now the World Games are only an
idea. Whatever happens with the World Games, we need to
recognise that we already have a jewel in the Olympic Games
and our first priority should be to protect this jewel.
SF: There is a weird situation with Tokyo 2020. The same IOC assembly
that gives the Games to Japan decided to cut out baseball, which is
the most popular sport in that country. Do you foresee any chance
of bringing back baseball and softball for Tokyo 2020?
FRB: At the moment not, you have
to respect the rules. At the same time, baseball and softball are
among the first sports in the USA, Cuba, Korea, Japan and the
Caribbean. There will be obviously a debate... We want to
review the procedure, which I don’t think is wise , to assess
sports every three or four years to include or exclude them.
Again, I think we should analyse more inside the programme
to see if there are sensible ways to make the programme
sustainable without limiting the number of sports. T his is an
IOC duty, but ASOIF is ready to contribute if we are asked
to do so.
SF: There is ASOIF, the Association of International Olympic
Winter Sports Federations AIOWF and some others, plus
SportAccord. How can a sports fan understand so many names
FRB: There are only three IF organisations, ASOIF and AOIWF,
plus SportAccord of course. But our functions are very
different. ASOIF and AOIWF provide service and assure
representation to our members in Olympic matters.
SportAccord focusses its attention on organising a very
successful convention and specialised games (Combat, Mind,
Beach etc) as well as providing services to non-Olympic
ITF World Autumn 2013 Edition, read the rest of the publication here.