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President’s Blog: The Year 2023 in Review

Date: December 22, 2023

Category: General

Dear IBSA family,

At the end of June this year, 2023 I was given the honour by our World Members to lead this important sport federation for blind and visually impaired athletes and would-be athletes. I have to be honest and admit that as your Vice-President in the previous Board that I, we let you all down: in spite of my agenda, my election promises we achieved nothing at the strategic level to make IBSA grow.

Fortunately during those 18 months we continued to be supported by our committed leaders in our IBSA sports and by all our loyal volunteers and partners. On June 30th I dusted off that Jordan agenda and encouraged by an enthusiastic new Board set about a series of key reforms to modernize IBSA fitting for the ambitions of our athletes.

I was fortunate that my Presidency kicked off with the very successful World Games in Birmingham. British Blind Sport supported by the RNIB and Birmingham City Council did a great job. During those Games a historical event occurred – the athletes elected one of their number Iida Kauppila from Finland to the Executive Board. Why has it taken so long for such a fundamental action?

In the wasted 18 months on that previous  Board I learned one important lesson. I knew so little about the issues currently in need of attention YET I was expected to vote on very important and athlete impactful decisions. I was not going to let that happen with the new Board with so many newly elected Members. And so before we needed to move to any major decisions we identified a whole list of key IBSA areas. We nominated a Board Member to each of a number of Commissions to research in depth the current standing of the subject area within IBSA and for those Commissions to report back to the whole Board by the year end.

In this way the Board in the coming months will feel empowered to make the best informed decisions in IBSA’s interests. Those areas under consideration are so often the focus of much controversy and criticism such as classification, sports management, future of the World Games, etc. This is the governance responsibility of the elected Board – strategic decision making.

In similar context we appointed an experience international administrator Tony Sainsbury to tackle a number of key management issues – creating a process for a full review of IBSA involving its Members, athletes and partners. Another area requiring his attention is the development of a professional administration based in an IBSA HQ/Home which was accessible to the IBSA family for meetings, education and training. I hope to report further on progress on these matters early in the New Year.

You will have noticed my remark at the Closing Ceremony in Birmingham that we have considerable interest in our next World Games in 2027 and even for 2031. Work has started to understand the various KPIs of each of those potential hosts to make the best decision for the athletes. We no longer regard this process as a ‘bidding process’ which history shows only leads to inflated promises as each one tries to outbid the other. The IOC and other multi sports organizations have made this a more discursive process with final determination by their Executive Boards.

It will be no surprise that financial management is also high on my priority list. We are about to embark on a full audit of our financial systems and accounting practices. The simple systems of the past are insufficient protection for IBSA’s asset in this technological world. And oversight of the budget was proving even more difficult and totally lacking in analysis of the various income and expenditure streams except manually.

The Board approved the appointment of Tim Reddish from the UK to chair the Legal & Ethics Committee. The creation of this Committee underscores my commitment to developing a culture of accountability and integrity within IBSA.

At the same time, the structure of the Anti-Doping committee was approved, designed to strengthen the Federation’s position against any form of abuse of prohibited drugs and doping.

I try to actively engage with the IBSA community through my regular contributions to a President’s Blog on our web page  providing a platform for open expression of thoughts. This initiative promotes transparency and inclusiveness by allowing stakeholders to share their views and actively contribute to ongoing reforms.

Even in such a short period of time I managed to make a number of important visits. The first European Para-Championship in Rotterdam; the IPC General Assembly in Bahrain; the Asian Paralympic Games in Hangzhou; the General Assembly of the Asian Paralympic Committee; the Saudi Games in Riyadh; the European Goalball Championships in Montenegro . Each trip is an opportunity to meet with colleagues and partners, an opportunity to discuss reforms and establish new cooperation.

I established new and valuable partnerships through meetings with the chairmen of the IPC swimming, athletics and powerlifting committees. Given the participation of a large number of blind and visually impaired athletes in athletics and swimming competitions, this cooperation becomes important. We are actively working with our friends to include athletics and swimming in the 2027 IBSA World Games program

But of all those meetings and interactions the ones I consider the most valuable have been those with our sports committees, commissions and other partner groups. They are at the very heart of IBSA and where I have received confirmation and endorsement of the reforms I see so necessary for IBSA going forward. Speaking to our heads of sports and volunteers one understands that it’s not the big strategic issues which are important to them but the ability to do their day to day work in the way they consider best whether that’s funding or knowledge and appreciation even just not being taken for granted.

I can assure them all as I did that will never be the case while I am President. And that’s why I want to reinforce here that IBSA is not the President’s IBSA or the Executive Board. It is your IBSA and that’s why I encourage you to never feel that I or other elected members are remote. If you have an issue or just wish to express a point of view that will benefit IBSA please contact my office or any other Board member – that’s what we all signed up to when you elected us in Fatima.

I wish you all a very enjoyable Christmas if that’s part of your culture and a sincere wish for a successful  New Year 2024 both for you and your families and in all your efforts for our work for which I thank you again.

Ilgar Rahimov
IBSA President

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