November 22, 2012

Few days ago in Lausanne WAKO presented its official application for IOC recognition.

by Ennio Falsoni

Following WAKO’s recognition by GAISF ( now SPORTACCORD)in April, 2006 in Seoul, Korea, we presented an application for official IOC recognition. It didn’t hurt to try, even if we knew we had little chance of success. Indeed, as we had been told by other presidents with more experience than me in these matters, we were refused and our application didn’t get past the office of Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s sports director.

Six years after our recognition by GAISF/SPORTACCORD, WAKO has grown on every level throughout the world, so we felt the time had come to repeat our appeal for IOC recognition in order to reach the final objective of our movement, the ultimate goal for any international federation such as ours. That is the reason for me being in Lausanne the evening of November 13 and while I was in my hotel room, reviewing the “ lesson ” I would have to repeat the following day, I realized I was re-living the same feelings I had experienced when I was much younger.

It’s really true that in life the exams never end.

At 66 years of age, as I went over the final draft of notes I had prepared for my meeting with the President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Jacques Rogge, I felt the same tension, the same fear &rdash to be honest &rdash that I remembered from my school days just before an important exam.Will I succeed in being convincing and fluid tomorrow, or will I flounder? Will I remember everything I have to say?

Indeed, I was in Lausanne for the most important meeting of my life, this time with the president of the IOC, which could lead to the definitive development of WAKO, the federation I have headed without interruption since 1984. With me, as usual, were my friends Espen Lund and Richard Leyrer, both WAKO vice-presidents who have always followed and supported me in all important political-sports relations throughout the world.

The appointment with Rogge, originally scheduled for the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, was moved to the nearby Hotel Palace after recent torrential rains damaged the headquarters sewage system, flooding the offices and forcing the personnel to re-locate until the end of December.

The appointment had been rigorously fixed for 8:40 to 9:00 AM on November 14 due to the busy schedule of President Rogge, and obviously we were there ten minutes early. The meeting didn’t end until 9:10, a good sign for us.

Mr. Rogge, a 70-year-old ex-surgeon from Bruges (Belgium) and a former competitor in sailing and rugby, is now approaching the end of his term. Dressed in a grey pinstripe suit, he greeted us in his new hotel office. Tall and limping a bit due to recent hip replacement surgery, he is calm and composed. After the usual handshake and exchange of greetings, but before getting down to the business at hand, to break the ice I gave him a copy of my latest book on the front page of which I had written a dedication praising his work in the diffusion of the Olympic ideal during his terms in office, and in particular at the recent London Olympics which were extraordinarily successful.

Now more relaxed, we jumped into our reason for coming to Lausanne. Together with Rogge were Christophe Dubi, head of the Sports Office, and Christian Wassmer, the senior advisor of the Sports Office, whom I had never met before. I was designated to present WAKO’s case and I must say that I think I did a good job, retracing all the major stages of our development, from the beginning to the present. It’s subject matter I know very well since I have lived it intensely and in its entirety.

I briefly went over the past 35 years of our history while stressing the number of our member nations with official recognition from their respective national Olympic Committees (95), the fact that we have been enforcing the WADA anti-doping code since 2006, our actions of solidarity around the world, the fact that we are a transparent and democratic federation (every four years we hold a general assembly), the transparency of the judges’ decisions in our competitions (Easy Scoring System) with the use of television monitors just outside the competition areas and the impressive numbers of participants at our continental and world championships.

During the entire time Jacques Rogge was listening as he glanced at a WAKO brochure that I had given him as evidence of our international calendar. Up to then, I told myself, I had carried out my task, but I had to expect some questions, like during school oral exams where the teachers evaluate the student’s answers in order to fine tune their impressions.

And that’s what happened.

After thanking me, Jacques Rogge invited Christophe Dubi to intervene. Dubi remembered our meeting in 2007, also in Lausanne, during which the problem of the fragmentation of kickboxing organizations at the international level had emerged. That problem proved to be largely responsible for them not granting us recognition last time, on our first attempt. Jacques Rogge didn’t give me time to answer before asking me why many of the athletes he had seen in the brochure photographs were not wearing headgear protection.

It was the perfect question that I was waiting for because it gave me an opportunity to talk about WAKO-Pro, the other side of WAKO. The birth of WAKO-Pro came from a study of what happened in boxing following the separation of amateurs and professionals and we didn’t want the same thing to happen to us, i.e. the existing incredible fragmentation ofprofessional bodies. And keep all the best fighters together. Needless to say, I fully expanded on the subject, and likewise I had a chance to clarify to Christophe Dubi the real current situation of our so-called international “ competitors ” , which is very different from what it was in 2007 since all of them today are forced to organize mixed fighting arts events, where they mix kickboxing with karate, taekwondo and also MMA.

At the end of our pleasant and historical meeting, more handshakes, a photo for the archives and a promise to get in touch soon. Getting out of the hotel, among the WAKO officials there was a certain euphoria and an awareness that we couldn’t have done any better. Now the ball is in the court of the IOC leadership. We will discover if we are promoted or not probably at the next Forum SportAccord, scheduled for St. Petersburg, Russia in May. If that rumor is true, we will findout soon. In the meantime we have to keep on working hard and correctlyas we have been doing in so many years , but I am certain of one thing: our IOC recognition is coming and sooner or later we will obtain it.

My heart tells me so.

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