Alexander White (Orense, 1950) will begin on Wednesday his fifth consecutive term as president of the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), a body he has directed since 2005, re-elected by the Assembly in elections to which he attends as the only candidate as in his three previous re-elections. In a interview with El Periódico analyzes the moment of the Olympism and the challenges it sets.
The Extraordinary General Assembly of the COE will ratify his continuity in office. No one has come forward to challenge him for the presidency. Does it generate so much unanimity?
The data are there, in the COE 35 Olympic federations are registered right now and the 35 have supported me in writing and of the 25 that there are non-Olympians, if I remember correctly, 23. Practically the entire group at 99.9%, such as in the three previous re-elections. The important thing in this period is that the COE has positioned itself first with athletes, which was a fundamental objective. Hearing that this is your home for me is an honor. And then the federations have been dimensioned in their proper measure. This is the house of sport, without a political flag, the house of pure sport. That the federations feel it theirs, is the demonstration that what we thought, has been achieved.
He is in office in 2005 and it will be his fifth term. He is by far the longest-serving president in the history of the COE. The direction his life took for someone who graduated in physical sciences is surprising.
That is a question that I have asked myself many times, although I would ask myself the other way around. What was I doing studying physics? because sport has always been my passion, for practicing it and then since I started in sports management in 1984. I dedicate myself to that 24 hours a day. For me it was an honor to win those tough first elections in 2005 and from there I have remained in the COE because I have the unanimous support and I remain willing and with the same passion for sport.
“The result of Tokyo is extraordinary and with the irruption of young people fighting for medals, we are enormously optimistic for Paris”
What is there still to do in the position that you have not done?
We have done many things, the most important of which is to consolidate the athletes and their own federations in the COE and introduce it to all social classes. But now we have very important projects and many things to do. Among them an artificial intelligence center, a very important program on the issue of refugees, the construction of a research center for sports, medicine, health and food. In other words, we have many challenges left. The above supports us to face other much bigger challenges.
The balance in Tokyo was 17 medals, a figure that maintains the level of London and Rio. How do you rate it?
The result was extraordinary, because we are going through very difficult times all over the world, but the pandemic in Spain was stronger than in other countries, which were able to isolate athletes, instead of having to stop as happened here. If we analyze the team that went to Tokyo with 328 classified athletes, nine teams, which is already the first success, and we take into account athletes who due to injury were not and were medal contenders such as Rahm, Nadal, Carolina Marín or Lydia Valentín and then we analyze the emergence of young people who were fighting for medals, it allows us to be enormously optimistic thinking about Paris.
If we look at the Tokyo medal table, it is seen that Spain was a long way from other European countries. Great Britain added 65 medals; Holland, 36; France, 33; Germany, 37; Italy, 40. What feelings does it awaken you?
It is not worth looking at the medal table of the countries and comparing it with Spain. You have to look at the medal table and the investment and then compare it. For a very simple reason. The budget that neighboring countries give to the federations in one year is double what we have here in four. So the comparison is not fair. If we take into account the ratio of results-investment, we are the first country in the world in sport. What can we or should we do? Be clear about the importance of sport and not just the sporting result. Sport is much more than the weekend competition. He is the great ambassador of our country in the world. Let’s think about that and make a specific program and give it the means so that there is more public money and, above all, that there is more possibility that more private money can be used to invest in sport.
It is necessary to change the model we live in, the ADO plan is the way to consolidate or to rethink it.
For me the output is the model. We have to define what we want from sport for the next 30 years. If we only want the results report, we only have to increase the amount invested when possible and some years we will have more results and others less. But I believe that sport is much more. 328 athletes attended the Games, but of high level in Spain, there are about 5,000. In the federations there are 3,800,000 licenses. And in Spain 26 million practice sports. Then something does not add up. I am insisting on this issue and I hope we can have meetings with the government soon to define the model. Having a ministry would be important, but it can also be a secretary of state that reports to the president. Whatever it is, we would be in another scenario. And I hope to achieve it, because one of the things that President Pedro Sánchez has shown is support for sport. He is giving it more importance, but from there we have to define a model we want.
Tokyo was the end point for a generation of athletes like Gasol, Bragado, Valverde, Rafa Nadal, Entrerríos. Is there a relay?
We are talking about real superstars as people and athletes, and it will not be easy. But also We would make a mistake if we tried to look for a second Entrerríos, a second Bragado or Valverde. But now another generation is coming, very young people and the chain continues to operate thanks to the support of the government and other programs, such as the Telefónica Podium, such as UCAM’s, and the Trinidad Alonso Foundation.
The former president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, Carlos Artur Numan, was sentenced to 30 years this week for buying votes in the 2009 election, where Madrid lost. How do you rate it?
On the one hand, it is very bad news for all of sport, for the Olympic movement, because there have been several cases of corruption and we were there competing with a magnificent candidacy. But on the other, it has a positive thing which is that the IOC and justice fight corruption and they have gotten those people to pay for it. We have to stay with that and think that Madrid had a very great candidacy and that it should not abandon that Olympic dream.
In your opinion, should you return to the Olympic career?
Madrid cannot abandon that dream and has to go for the Games. Here we had the Olympic Village, the stadium, 17 sports and the airport within a seven-minute bus radius. Nobody in the world has that. Madrid has a sporting and organizational level and a very important fact: when there is a candidacy, the IOC conducts a poll on popular support, and Madrid has always given the highest percentage of support of all.
“The candidacy of the Pyrenees for 2030 will be magnificent. In March we want to have the technical report “
Catalonia and Aragon are also working to build a candidacy for the Pyrenees for the 2030 Winter Games. How is the project doing?
We have held several meetings in Barcelona, in Zaragoza, in Jaca. We are progressing little by little because it cannot be done otherwise. There are no deadlines right now, but We intend to release the technical study in the month of March to be able to explain it. It will be a magnificent candidacy.
You brought together more than 150 mayors in the Vall d’Aran who showed their support for the project, but instead voices against it arise, such as those of Killian Jornet or Araceli Segarra. Are you surprised?
I’m not surprised. We have to be clear that whatever you do, there is always someone who is against it. That does not have to worry us. One of the premises not only of sport but of life is respect for the opinions of others. But the important thing in any project is that you have many more people supporting it than opposing it. The meeting in the Vall d’Aran was spectacular, massive and unanimous. Same as Jaca. That is our way. From there, time and the decision of the IOC will place us.
Former athlete Ruth Beitia and Sete Benavides learned recently, almost a decade after London, that the IOC recognized their bronze medals in high jump and c1 200 for doping by rivals. Added to that were Valentine’s 2012 Beijing silver and London gold. Belated justice.
That also has a positive part. The president of the IOC, Thomas Bach has done many things well, but if I have something to emphasize to him it is the issue of freezing the samples and that you can retest after ten years and show that there could be cheating. Nobody can give you back the moment of euphoria in those Games, go up to the drawer, the ecstasy for which you have fought for four years. That’s not allowed. But, after time, it is shown that this medal is yours and the Olympic movement tells you: “here you have it” We have received the letter confirming the medals of Sete and Ruth and we hope to receive them to pay him the tribute he deserves with his people to say “you are the medalist”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.