Beijing Olympic Review

February 25, 2009

At the launch of the Beijing Review ,OCI Chief Executive Dr Stephen Martin, OCI and EOC President Patrick Hickey, and Alistair Gray, Genesis Managing Director.

The Review, which also highlights many other pertinent issues, was undertaken by Genesis using a framework of best practice operated in nations such as Australia, Germany and Great Britain. 
The Review shows that Ireland has under-performed consistently over the past six Olympic Games compared to eight nations of similar population (New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia). In the case of Lithuania, Croatia and Slovenia they have only been competing as nations in the Olympic Games since Barcelona (1992) and Slovakia since Atlanta (1996), and arguably have lower economic resources to invest in sport than Ireland.
The Genesis Review addresses Ireland’s comparatively low level of success by highlighting four factors:
Firstly, the failure of the High Performance planning processes put in place since the development of the High Performance strategy by the Irish Sports Council (ISC) in 2001. This called for, amongst a number of key actions:
·      Focus on a relative small number of sports with medal winning potential (Super Effective Sports)
·      Establishment of the Irish Institute of Sport, of which the NCTC was to be an integral part
·      Effective partnership to be formed between the key organisations supporting high performance sport, especially between the OCI and the Irish Sports Council.
Secondly, the apparent lack of direction and ambition shown by many of the sports, despite serious levels of Governmental financial support over the years. The Super Effective Sports proposed in 2001 have yet to be identified.
Thirdly, the general confusion that still exists about the role and status of the Irish Institute of Sport. For Beijing, the role and impact of the IIS was not apparent, even according to the Sports Council’s own review (published recently). The establishment was a key feature of the strategy published in 2001, reflecting little progress over 7 years.
Fourthly, the exclusion of the OCI by the ISC in any real partnership role despite this kind of co-operation being established good practice in comparable nations.
The Genesis Review examined the performance of the OCI in Beijing and reviewed the results of questionnaires issued to all team members (with a 65% return rate), as well as the reports by the sports’ management after the Games. These confirmed that the OCI had provided strong leadership, management and advice to the Irish team. The OCI was perceived as a positive contributing force behind Ireland’s Beijing challenge.
The Review expresses concern about the apparent lack of preparedness to date by sports and the Irish Sports Council for the London 2012 Olympics taking place in less than four years time.
It notes that virtually none of the sports, in reality, appear to have any concrete objectives for London 2012. It calls for a change in the overall culture and the state of mind of Irish athletes, coaches, managers, sports and the ISC, stating that Ireland currently appears to lack the ambition, attitude and self-belief of comparable nations.
Making the presentation in Dublin’s Davenport Hotel (Feb 25th), Genesis’s managing director Alistair Gray recommended that major initiatives be taken immediately to give Irish athletes any chance of meaningful and improved performances at the London Olympiad. The importance of the London Olympic Games cannot be overemphasised, as a focus and catalyst for improved performance.
“They are a once in a lifetime opportunity to achieve real change”, he said. The recently published review by the ISC is welcomed and contains useful data and evidence of some improvement in performance, but provides little confidence that Ireland can achieve a 6-8 medal haul – a realistic target for a nation with the talent and resources of Ireland.
The public perceive the London 2012 Games as virtually a ‘Home’ Games and therefore the expectation level on performance will be greater than ever before.
To demonstrate a sense of urgency a joint planning group for London 2012 should be immediately set up by the Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism – to include the ISC, OCI, IIS and Coaching Ireland.
In particular the Genesis Review states that the OCI should be closely involved in the preparation and development of Olympic performance plans, along with the other stakeholders. They were excluded from this process during the four years prior to the Beijing Games, and not provided with copies of the performance plans for the sports.
This is in marked contrast to the situation that exists in GB where UK Sports Council, the British Olympic Association and the Olympic sports work in genuine partnership.
This has been an essential contributory factor behind the increase in medal performance in the GB team and their athletes (e.g. Atlanta 1996 – 8 medals, only one Gold, Beijing 2008 – 47 medals including 19 Gold). All parties should ensure that an effective partnership be established, once and for all, for the benefit of Irish athletes.
The Genesis Beijing Review examined contributions from 28 athletes, 12 team managers and their National Federations, the reports of the OCI Medical and Sport Science Team, and 5 members of the OCI Beijing Management Team to deliver its findings. Genesis did not review the performance plans of the sports.
The OCI did not participate in the ISC’s Beijing Olympic Review compiled by Wharton Consultants, as it felt that its contributions to the ISC’s Athens Review did not properly reflect its inputs.
Genesis consultants are advisers to UK Sport and have carried out many reviews of high performance sport in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere throughout the world. They led the development of the high performance strategy for Ireland in 2001, and have conducted a number of reviews for the IRFU and the FAI in recent years following major World Cup campaigns.
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