On TCN, we have written about the problems of Croatian sport many times. It is nice for a change to let somebody else to address the issue, and who better than the man responsible for the official website of the Croatian Olympic Athletes Club. This editorial was published on May 9, 2016, and we bring it as it is published there.
The government and the Croatian Olympic Committee congratulated rowers and karate athletes for the exceptional results achieved at last week’s European championships. You know, these are those kind of letters full of sentences like “We share your joy and pride in sports celebrating Croatian colors”, “Again you have enchanted us, as you have done so many times, and proved that you are extraordinary people and that your sports achievements can be described only in absolute superlatives”, and similar flattering phrases.
Nice, but in this case, those congratulations at first glance look like some kind of mockery, and when looked into with more attention, sound cynical. Actually, to be entirely precise; those congratulations sound like a curse!
One week is not enough time to forget the way in which our Karate and Rowing athletes have gone to get all those gold, silver, and bronze medals from the Continental Championships in the first place. For those with a shorter memory, let’s remind ourselves that Sinkovićs, Damir Martin, Ana-Marija Bujas Čelan, Azra Saleš, Ivona Tubić, Ana Lenard, Maša Martinović, Ivan Ermenc, Damjan Padovan, Tomislav Stolar, and all the others have traveled to the competitions mentioned more or less – by private arrangement. The head people of the Federations used their own credit cards and got private loans to ensure their athletes would not feel the consequences of the state and The Olympic Committee not securing the funds for their path to the medals. The medals which are now the case of their proud and, of course, congratulations.
The great discontent of the federations was triggered by a paradoxical fact that, in the last week, the Olympic Committee has found enough money to pay the salaries for their employees, but has not found the money to pay the athletes the cost of travel to the European Championships, and amongst those athletes were the biggest candidates for the Olympic Gold medals. The head officials of the Croatian Rowing, Athletic, and Karate Federations have announced their public protests, but that did not disturb the head people in the COC. On the contrary, the Secretary General of the COC, Mr. Josip Čop dismissed all the critics, claiming that neither he or the COC did anything illegal, and he is totally right about that. Even more so, they have the legal obligation to pay the earned salaries to the employees.
Nevertheless, this is not about the obeying the laws, but about the meaning of existing and the work of the Croatian Olympic Committee. The COC is nominally the head association of the Croatian sport. And with this in mind, according to the article 96 of its Statute, it is to ensure the funds for competitions, preparations, qualifying games, and the World and European Championships for the National Sporting Federations. Because of its nonexisting cooperation with the Ministry of Science, Education, and Sport, and its other interests, the COC in the last few years is finding it hard to fulfill those obligations. In the last few months, it is not fulfilling it at all. So this extreme and absurd situation in which there is money for the administration, but there is no money for the athletes, coaches, and the competition costs, should be a turning point.
The National Sporting Federations and the newly appointed deputy minister Janica Kostelić should seriously consider changes to the Sport Act in the sense of founding one Croatian Sport Federation. In this way, the COC would not be only the distributor of the public funds to the federations, and would be, according to its name, in charge solely for the Olympic Games and other similar multi-sporting activities. There is the other, less radical point of view, according to which, it should not be the system or the law which is to be changed – but people in charge. It is a legitimate point of view too.
The Croatian Government should, apart from sending greeting cards, decide what they want from sport, and about the way and the quantity of money to fund it. It is nice to have the four – times Olympic Champion at the position of the Deputy Minister, but it would be even nicer to have an idea and vision of how to raise more sport legends like her, in Croatia, the country full of people with an exceptional talent for sport.
Marin Šarec, chief editor of olimpijci.hr