Rowing should ‘get out’ of the Olympics


A guest post by Craig Allely

1984 Lake Casitas regatta finishing-line. The last stroke of the M4+ Olympic final Because I was lying under the bow-canvas, I became the first Briton to win an Olympic rowing gold medal since Richard Burnell in 1948 (& the first GB cox since 1912!)

The current proposal by FISA to change the Olympic Rowing Events to fit in with the grand plan by the International Olympic Committee is another schizophrenic attempt by FISA to comply with the unreasonable dictates of the parent organization.

The current proposal will disadvantage the current advantaged and vice versa ie, the removal of mens 4- and lightweight mens 4-makes no sense as rowing is largely a crew sport.So one of the larger groups of competitors will be shut out of rowing because a bunch of bureaucrats at Olympic Head Office don’t give a damm about rowing.

The current World Championships is a reasonably balanced program giving competitors opportunities to compete in sculling and rowing events either lightweight or heavy weight male or female no cross gender events yet.

Rowing manages its own affairs pretty well with good program for old ,young and physically disadvantaged ,we have good rowing courses generally, but when we get to the Olympics rowing is carried out of a windswept sewer, hardly good for competitors.

It seems the sport especially at top level ,World Championships and Olympic events the sport is at the pleasure of the IOC ,any one who knows anything about rowing will know what happens to events once they are dropped from the Olympics.

It’s a pity this charade is assisted by Martin Cross (lets be bold with rowing)and Jean Christophe Rolland and Matt Smith all ex Internationals all paid servants of FISA. And SKY TV and with the two FISA employees obviously interested in career opportunities with the Olympic Organisation and will accordingly act.

You would think with the experience they have with rowing they would have a bit more loyalty to the sport.

If Rowing cannot run its own show it should get out of the Olympics.


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This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Daniel Spring

    Hmm…where to begin….I do understand the anger that the FISA proposals have produced across some parts of the rowing community, but the facts of the matter are that the Olympics are still the biggest multi-sports event in the world, and the Olympics (under the “leadership” of Thomas Bach) are changing.
    I think a lot of Olympic sports were given a real wake-up call by what happened to wrestling. To avoid the same fate they have to be seen to be adapting and modernising. For rowing this means attaining gender parity…7 events for men and 7 for women (currently it’s 8:6).
    Both of the proposals being presented to the FISA Congress this week would achieve that gender parity. The FISA Council recommend replacing the LM4- with the W4-. The 2nd proposal (sponsored by a number of countries) recommends replacing the M4- with the LW4-. So, to clarify one of the points made by Craig, whichever proposal is accepted the number of rowers will actually remain the same, we will keep a 4-oared boat. The question is will it be a lightweight or an open-weight boat.
    The IOC have long complained about the fact the rowing is the only sport (outside of weightlifting and combat sports) to have weight restricted events. As early as 2003 there were calls from the Olympic Programme Commission to remove lightweight rowing from the Games entirely. Now, with the new Agenda 2020, the IOC assume control over not only what sports are included in the Games but also which events within those sports. This gives them free reign to drop the 3 current lightweight rowing events from the programme for Tokyo if they so desire.
    The problem facing Jean-Christophe Rolland is how to protect rowing’s inclusion in the biggest event in the world of sport. Without the Olympics rowing would become even more of a minority sport than it already is. Funding would disappear overnight as would 90% of sponsorship. Rowing would die.
    The approach FISA are taking is the most pragmatic it could be, whilst not proposing a complete overhaul of the programme. By recommending the removal of the LM4- (an event loved by rowers but not by the IOC) and replacing it with the W4- it is hoped the IOC will be satisfied and allow for both the Light doubles to continue. So, ironically, by sacrificing the LM4- it may actually ensure the continuation of lightweight sculling in the Olympics.

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Thanks Daniel – it really is a “rock and a hard place” situation. I find it odd that the principle of inclusivity whereby Olympic sports are judged by the number of COUNTRIES taking part doesn’t over-ride the lightweight element. More countries have light than heavy athletes… but hey, it’s not my fight – even though I’m deeply interested in the outcome.

  2. Nicha


    1. Craig Allely

      Thank you for your comments Daniel ,I hoped there would be more with such an important issue facing the sport.The spin off
      for Rowing events not included in the Olympics will be enormous so far we have seen the death of the light weight eight,the near disappearence of the coxed four event, others will follow.,The Olympics not the idea ,but the creation of an extravagent show based on an opening ceremony is being killed by forces outside who want as much cash as possible from this show.
      Rowing is being sacrificed in this cause.Rowing is already a modern sport any one who wants to row can row.
      Unfortunately most people are sheep and accept what they think is inevitable ,and sheep get slaughtered .
      Rowing now has to fight for its survival ,What I find is disapointing is some of our ex Internationals ,so called leaders of our great sport now become accomplices in its destruction.
      FISA is becoming a wipped dog as the Olympic Lords define rowing future.
      Thomas Bach does not give a dam about Rowing. have not seen any calls for the restructure of his chosen sport fencing.I sure any sports critic
      could make a case against fencing ,personally I would not dream of attacking another Olympic sport.
      Anyway thank god for the Danish Lightweights with their petition about Lightweight Rowing.
      Hopefully some of the British guys who have won Olympic Gold medals in the Coxless Fours will start raising hell as well.
      I hope to attend some major regattas in Europe next year mainly Henley and Lucerne it would be good to talk to FISA people
      abpout these issues but they will be not available contained in their exclusive enclosures .

    2. Craig Allely

      Its an interesting thing about the lightweight concept it started in the USA it was based on the average weight of men in the US armed forces in WW2 which was 150 pounds 10 stone 10 pounds which FISA moved out to 72 kgs in 1974 forty years later
      It actually creates an inclusive quality in the sport not every bodies 90 kilos plus or 75 for the ladies, dont forget the lightweight girls at 60 kg
      Any way a good big man beats a good small man most of the time but they can can be embarrssed on occassion e.g. 1992
      Olympics Australia Mens Doubles Antonie and Hawkins 1972 Olympics Malhisev 78kgs Olympic Champion 1X
      Any way its not the size of the dog but the size of the fight in the dog that counts.This is important in Rowings fight for its Olympic survival.Actually it is your fight Rebecca ,its every ones fight who rows or every will ,its a big part of the sports well being.From novice to Olympian to equipment provider

  3. John Yeatman

    The Olympics is the pinnacle of our sport. Quitting isn’t an option. If we were to quit all funding in the UK at least would disappear overnight.
    Gender equality is a laudable aim.
    Limits on medals and athlete numbers at the Olympic games are a fact of life.
    There are far more events and athletes at a rowing world championships than at an Olympic regatta.
    Rowers outnumber many other bigger sports at an Olympics.
    These are the conflicting requirements FISA and the IOC have to square away. What would you have them do?

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      Totally agree that quitting is not an option, John. My worry is that IOC members’ votes [apparently] can be bought and few understand rowing.

  4. Matt

    WTF? Not really sure if I’m reading this right but anyone who suggests rowing should evacuate the Olympics all together HAS THEIR HEAD UP THEIR ASS. Continuing to grow the sport means exposure must be courted at all times at any cost. Most people (in the USA at least) know nothing about rowing except what they see at the Olympics. Even if the program is reduced to ONE 8+ event millions of fat people who would never have given boats and oars a second thought learn about rowing and want to try it. What events are in/out is a nuanced argument, have it privately. Be thankful our sport is included and can play the “original 1896” card.

    As usual, the cox is an idiot.

  5. Craig Allely

    Well Matt I can assure you that my head is squarely on my shoulders. Remember it was me who iniated the debate on this subject..As of this weekend Rowing has been shown the door in a partial sense It may not end there.,Interestingly there is no move to reduce the number of disabled rowers at the Olympics ,Thomas Bach and friends have been careful not to target the Rowing of disabled people, That would really make them the bad guys .If people in the USA know nothing about Rowing at the Olympics then US Rowing needs to promote it more actively between the Olympics.Your argument that boats in or out is a naunced argument is not true if you what to see an effect this will have go to the FISA website and see what the Asia Associations representives say about the effects of loss of funding they will suffer.If Rowing goes down to one eight oar event it will be an easy target for elimination by IOC.
    IOC and its corruption are well documented in the end Olympic ideals are being lost .Its about money Tv rights back handers
    big City egos .Coxswains are not idiots they have given huge contributions to sport also as coaches and administrators.
    Rowing deserves to be in the Olympics in its full entirety does not have to be the poor relation grateful for its place at the table.
    Swimming and athletics are there in all their glory.

    1. Rebecca Caroe

      The FISA decision Craig references is here.

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