August 4, 2020 – Former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic spoke to Croatian Radio about becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which values she would promote during her tenure and the future of Olympism and sport amid a pandemic.
Jutarnji List writes that several months have passed since she was nominated, and she was confirmed as an IOC member by video conference two weeks ago.
“IOC President Thomas Bach called me shortly after the end of his presidential term and suggested it. I accepted the proposal with enthusiasm. Before it passed the candidacy and ethics committee and before the Executive Committee made a decision, it was all supposed to be kept secret. After the IOC itself announced it, I confirmed it and waited for the decision of the assembly. I was excited. I was waiting for the vote on the new board members and working bodies, which was coming to an end. It was interesting to watch the video conference, but I would much rather have seen each other than waiting in silence from home. For now, I have online activities ahead of me, mostly introductory seminars for new members and an introduction to the membership of the committee that decides on the future host of the Olympic Games to which I have been appointed this week. Other activities depend on the pandemic.”
As President of the Republic of Croatia, she received Bach in Pantovcak.
“That was the beginning of our work cooperation, I think I can freely say friendship, although we did not have the opportunity to hang out together often. I would always find time even when I was in New York to meet with Mr. Bach and IOC members. That first meeting was in Pantovcak when we had the Open Days and we presented sports, athletes, active sports for the healthy development of both the individual and society. That was the moment we clicked. Lots of common thoughts, ideas, the general attitude towards sports, accessibility of sports to young people, but also sports as a way of thinking, not just physical activities. And philosophies, as the Olympic Charter itself, says: Olympism is a philosophy of life that implies a lot. In terms of development, but also world peace, harmony and balance in society, quality of will and mind, but also sport as a weapon that can and must be used in general diplomacy, in stopping wars, the Olympic truce is known. These are just some of the forms of action and goals that Mr. Bach and I share in sport.”
Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic is the fourth person from Croatia in the IOC, and the first woman.
“It is a great pleasure and recognition for me personally, but also great recognition for Croatia as a country of sports. I am sorry that the first news that followed the announcement of the candidacy was accompanied more by some financial aspects, and in fact, it is a much more substantial job. It’s not just going to sporting events; it’s a lot of work. For Croatia, I think that is extremely good. When foreigners mention people who come from Croatia, they mostly mention athletes, rarely or never politicians, even people from other walks of life. At this moment, we must use all the values of sports diplomacy and thus profile Croatia on the international scene. Even a symbolic gesture, give someone the jersey of the Croatia national team with their name printed on the back, can do wonders. And imagine only when you embark on some much more significant actions such as organizing international camps.”
She points out that she will work closely with the Croatian Olympic Committee, and welcomed the establishment of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
“Sport is so important that it deserves its ministry. It’s not just because of the great national team players. This is because of every child in this state who must have the right to access sports, to ensure they are cheap, accessible, and they can engage in either top-level sports or for pure pleasure and health reasons. The general health of the population is essential and sport is essential for immunity. There are huge opportunities ahead of us. Combining tourism and sports is really great. I plan to visit the minister and meet her associates. As a member of the IOC, I must be absolutely neutral, politically and in any other way.”
She also referred to the World Cup in Russia in 2018, where she cheered from the ceremonial box in the Croatia jersey.
“It took a little courage. I specifically asked them if I could violate the jersey code prescribed by the FIFA leadership. In fact, I was amazed that it was so. I don’t think we should be ashamed of national colors, sport is to rejoice, maybe grieve a little if we lose, but in the end to accept it all in sports and give a hand to each other and show that there are no evil thoughts and that sport brings us closer and contributes to better understanding among nations. The reactions are great and even today, when I travel, people who follow football recognize me.”
At the suggestion of the IOC President, she was also appointed to the Commission for Determining the Future Hosts of the Olympic Games.
“I’m going into fifth gear right away. I study documents, arrange future online meetings. Although I have to say I’m a little frustrated that I can’t go somewhere on the spot. The first thing I would do is go to Lausanne and meet everyone at the Olympic House, the people I would work with so closely, on a volunteer basis. Something you invest your own time in, and I will say my heart beats for Croatia, but in the years ahead, I will have to beat for world sports and athletes from all over the world.
I hope that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will be held next year. However, if circumstances do not return to normal by then, they are unlikely to hold them in front of empty spectators and when there may be a mass infection among athletes. Still, I hope for a medical miracle in the meantime that will solve these problems. A committee that decides on future hosts has been set up to make savings and make the process more transparent. The responsibility is huge, but also an honor. The work of the board will be quite arduous. You need to consider in detail all aspects of what the possible future hosts of the Games are proposing, and that decision should be made that is the best and balances all arguments from political support to infrastructure. But I have to admit that there isn’t much talk about candidacies at the moment because of the epidemic. It seems to me that they will go towards spending less on the opening of the Olympic Games and similar ceremonies,” Grabar-Kitarovic concluded.
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