2012 ISU Congress Proposes More of the Same

by George Rossano

(28 May 2012)  When the ISU Congress meets in Kuala Lumpur starting June 8th, two issues will be taken up that will affect the future of the ISU for years to come.  The first of these is a proposal to delay the election of officers, currently set for 2014, to 2016.  The second involves various proposals to change the format of congresses in non-Olympic years, and there is also a proposal from France to add a conference between congresses in odd numbered years.

The ISU proposal to reschedule the election of officers reads as follows:

7. ISU Council

Article 9

Amend paragraph 1 as follows:

1. Meetings of Congress are held as follows:

a) An Ordinary Congress is held every even numbered year, preferably in June or July on dates determined by the Council and announced to all Members at least six (6) months prior to the Congress.

b) The next Ordinary Congress with elections will be held in 2016 (instead of 2014). The Congress 2014 will be with a Forum and without elections.

c) The subsequent Ordinary Congresses with elections is organized every four (4) years after the Olympic Winter Games, but in the same year (starting in 2018).

d) An Ordinary Congress without election includes a Forum (see Art. 29, paragraph 6).

e) An Extraordinary Congress is held whenever the Council considers it necessary or upon written demand, giving reasons, by one fifth of the Members.

Reason: In the follow-up to the Barcelona Resolution the Council proposed to have elections two years after the Olympic Winter Games and would like to hold an Ordinary ISU Congress every 4 years and to hold the Conference every second year after the Ordinary Congress.

In the meantime we had to learn that a Conference has not the same right and power as the Congress.  According to mandatory Swiss law the approval of the financial statements, the auditors' report, the budget and the discharge of the Council and other Office Holders belong to the essential competences of the ordinary assembly of Members, i.e. in the case of the ISU, the ISU Congress. At the same time Swiss law confers upon each Member the indispensable right to have any proposal regarding amendments of the Constitution and the General Regulations put on the agenda of any general assembly. Therefore it is not possible to limit the voting rights at any Congress to the above mentioned subject matters. The name "Congress" instead "Conference" has to remain.  Following the experience of other International Sport Federations the election cycle should be in line with the Olympic cycle of 4 years. To give enough time for the preparation of the Olympic Winter Games (OWG) the Council and also the concerned Technical Committees need the whole period of four (4) years. Otherwise, the experience of the OWG 2014 could not be taken into consideration, as the OWG dates are later than the deadline for introducing new motions/proposals for Rules changes. Therefore the Congress with a Forum in 2014 would discuss and propose significant Rules changes which will be decided during the 2016 Congress 2 years before the next following 2018 OWG.

The present World economic situation continues in a very serious state. With this situation, there are also effects being felt within the World of Sport, and on the efforts to maintain its economic viability and growth. Throughout this period the current relevant parties within the ISU have been successful in maintaining and in some cases improving contracts in all the ice skating disciplines. A large number of these contracts come forward for review/renewal in the period immediately following the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. To maximize future contract results, it is felt that those persons presently involved be again available to direct and achieve the best economic situation for the ISU in the future. A consistency of involved parties would be a positive step to success and hopefully ensure a positive direction for the future. Working in tandem with this is work presently in play to enhance and develop Office Holders and various projects related to the future of the ISU and its basic organization in the later period post 2014. The present Council working with the other Office Holders would pledge to work in this manner. For this reason, the current Council would recommend maintaining the status quo in the political landscape to 2016 in order to develop and prepare the ISU for its future and that of all the sportspersons in the ISU. The 2016 election would be for a term of two years and the election cycle will return to its normal period in 2018.

The justification for this proposal is frivolous to the point of absurdity.  Various contracts come up for renewal or review immediately following the 2014 Winter Olympics so, it is claimed, it is in the economic interest of the ISU to keep the current management in place for two additional years to insure the best outcome for these negotiations.  Further, it is offered, the steady hand of the current management is needed for the successful development of important (unidentified) projects.

How naive does president Cinquanta think the ISU members are?  Apparently he thinks they are very very naive.  The purpose of this proposal pure and simple is to give president Cinquanta, and a few other council members who are age ineligible to run for re-election in 2014, two more years in office after they have aged out under the current ISU constitution.

President Cinquanta and his fellow old-timers will still be in office immediately following the 2014 Winter Olympic Games for four months.  Further, only a small number of office holders will be aging out.  There will be enough continuity of office holders, committee members and ISU staff to insure successful negotiations without changing the election cycle, and if any officers aging out are truly essential to negotiations, the next ISU president can appoint those people to negotiate with him or in his stead.  As for unidentified projects that require the steady hand of the current president and Council: first, there are no major initiatives that anyone is aware of that are of such a critical nature that ignoring the age limits for office holders should be deferred; and second, anyone aging out who is critical to any project underway can be appointed to work on those projects in an emeritus status.

There is nothing obvious to be gained by the ISU by deferring the 2014 election and much to be lost.

At the end of his term in 2014, president Cinquanta will have served for 20 years; much longer than any ISU president in nearly 90 years.  During his first 8 years in office he presided over a rise in popularity in skating to its historic peak.  He presided over the move to bring younger people into the judging ranks and technical innovations such as the use of instant reply in competition.  Since 2002, however, he has presided over a sport in decline throughout much of the world with reduced TV ratings, reduced event attendance, reduced show attendance, the death of professional competitions, reduced income, and a decline in people actually participating in skating.  Little progress has been made in restoring public confidence in skating competitions and the ISU since the scandal of 2002.  Figure skating is a sport adrift and directionless, and president Cinquanta and the current ISU Council offer no vision for how take back control of skating's future.  Deferring the 2014 elections will only insure the ISU sees more of the same.  The same stagnation and the same public disinterest.

The fundamental issue facing the ISU is not the successful renegotiation of contracts in 2014.  It is first and foremost, restoring public interest and participation in skating, and confidence in competition results.  President Cinquanta and the current Council have no obvious vision for how to do this that would justify extending terms two mores years.  What could president Cinquanta and the Council hope to accomplish in this regard with two more years that they were not able to accomplish in the last twenty?  All they can offer is more of the same when the same is clearly not working.

The justification for this proposal rightly points out the importance of electing officials at the Congress following each Winter Olympic Games so the office holders will have four years of experience going into the subsequent Olympics.  But if adopted, this proposal will result in office holders elected in 2016 having less than two years in office when the 2018 Olympics begin.  In addition, the first time the new ISU president will be able to make an imprint on a Congress will be 2018 when he will also be up for re-election.  Consequently if this comes to pass, expect more of the same for the next six years so far as the rules are concerned.

The ISU needs new blood with a clear vision for how to develop and market skating to the youth of the world.  President Cinquanta will be two months shy of 78 years old at the the 2016 Congress.  He will be old enough to be the great-grandfather of the youngest skaters who will compete in Worlds that year.  With only a bit of a stretch he will nearly be old enough to be the great-great-grandfather of the youngest children first taking up skating that year.  What vision of relevance to the youngest generations of figure skaters in the 21st century can great-grandpa Ottavio offer as a speedskater who grew up in wartime Italy nearly 70 years ago?  All he can offer is more of the same.

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Copyright 2012 by George S. Rossano