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Did You Know...

... that IPC President Patrice Girardin offers a view from the other side?

Sinapsi PD 2005 with Pete Allum
posted Jun 11th, 2005 - The NSL News went back to the topic of international eligibility for first-category events in the Sporting Code of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) with the story on June 9, 2005. The first part of the story finished with the question on the Italian side: "What happened between December 2004 and the end of May 2005?"

The FAI's "Air Sport General Commission" (CASI) had scheduled a regular annual meeting for Friday, May 20, 2005, at the FAI headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, while the Italian team with Pete Allum in the new line-up continued with the scheduled team training and the first competition at the FSL Shamrock Showdown 2005.

FAI's "Air Sport General Commission" consists of FAI member country's delegates and representatives of each air sport. Parachuting is represented in the FAI by the International Parachuting Commission (IPC) and its president, Patrice Girardin, who was present at the CASI meeting on May 20.

The agenda of the CASI May 2005 meeting was posted at the FAI website and included the topic of the current discussion:

Agenda of the Annual Meeting of the FAI Air Sport General Commission To be held in Lausanne, Switzerland on 20 May 2005 at 14h00 at the Olympic Museum:

Sporting Code General Section Draft updates for 2005 A-5:, Representation. A case was raised by the Italian Parachuting Association about a person who wished to compete for a different country in a world championship in the third year after representing another. However, because the dates of the championship in the third year were earlier in the calendar year, three years had not elapsed if the period is taken to the nearest day. The FAI Secretary General states that it was never the intention to take the three years "to the day" but to apply it to the relevant championship in the third year, irrespective of its exact dates. It is suggested that this para now reads: "A citizen of a country may be issued with a FAI Sporting Licence to represent the NAC of that country. If a person wishes to represent a different NAC in any FAI airsport activity, the new NAC shall not be represented until 1 January of the third year after that in which the previous NAC had been represented. (AL9)"

The suggested new definition of on the CASI agenda was obviously consistent with FAI Secretary General Max Bishop's message to Italy and Pete Allum in December 2004. Bishop had only explained what the FAI was planning to do in May 2005. The content on the agenda for a meeting is usually prepared by input from the delegates who get feedback from the constituency of each country's parachuting organization.
FAI fax to Italy's IPC delegate, Sara Sacchet
The result of the CASI meeting as of the eligibility issue was obviously very different compared to the agenda and Bishop's message from December 2004. This difference was the main reason why Sinapsi PD, Pete Allum and Italy's IPC Delegate, Sara Sacchet, were unpleasantly surprised when Sacchet received the official FAI fax from Bishop on May 27, 2005.

It is unusual that a rule change, which has a direct impact on the competition, comes to effect at a time when the teams and athletes have already initiated their training efforts, as the Italian team has done. The IPC, for example, presents its dive pool and other rule changes traditionally at the earliest time after the previous world meet. This gives all teams and athletes the chance to make plans according to the updated rule book for the next 2-year period.

The Italian headquarters does not understand why the new eligibility rules seem to come into effect instantly, as FAI's Max Bishop indicates: "We understand that the above ruling of CASI may have an effect on the composition of the Italian Team for the 2006 World Parachuting Championship, and we ask you therefore kindly to take note that this ruling over-rides guidance I had previously given."

IPC President Patrice Girardin in Gap 2003
Sacchet and the Sinapsi PD members said that they trusted Bishop's interpretation of and the originally planned clarification of this rule at the CASI May meeting. They also could have accepted a rule change with a different outcome if it came into effect after the word meet in 2006, so the Italian team would not have to make significant adjustments in the middle of the preparations. The current situation feels like a low blow to the Italians.

IPC President Patrice Girardin sees the whole situation from a very different perspective and defends the May decision of the CASI. Girardin mentioned that the minutes of the meeting have not been posted at this point. However, he was already willing to explain the eligibility issue from his position:

"First of all, the rule involved hasn't changed, and it is absolutely not a matter of reconsidering or interpreting it. This rule needed a clarification, of course, but not about the period of three years: three years are three years, not two years and a half or three years and two months. When the IPC became officially involved in the Italian request, the IPC bureau considered two points: a 3-year period has not to be managed in any other way than 1095 days, and to change a rule between two WPC (World Parachuting Championships) is a bad message to send to the competitors."

However, despite Girardin's clear view of the specific rule, the agenda for the CASI May meeting included a written clarification and a revised language for the paragraph. Girardin was aware of this situation:

"Based on these two points and after an internal vote, the IPC officially requested to the CASI to include the wording of 1095 days. This request was made after the publication of the agenda. The request was denied, but CASI has added the start and the end of this 3-year period by majority vote. To sum up the new language: the period of three years starts at the end of the closing ceremony of the first competition and ends at the opening ceremony of the second competition."

IPC President Patrice Girardin in Croatia 2004
Girardin also explains that is a part of the FAI Sporting Code, which rules all other airsports at the same time. The FAI and its CASI have to consider all aspects of all these other air sports at the same time, not only the impact on parachuting:

"Why does the CASI have to handle a simple skydiving problem? Because this is covered in the GS (General Section), which touches all the other airsports. To be more accurate you need to know some points. What is considered a competition? A first category competition where a competitor officially represents his or her NAC: WPC and World Cup are on the same scale, there is no difference. You also need to know that a change in dates has already happened in the past in other events - with no complaints or problems and with the 3-year period understood as three completed and full years."

The IPC President believes that Italy stands alone in its request for consistency in the interpretation of the specific rule in of the FAI Sporting Code. He also thinks that there is not enough general knowledge about the rules:

"To complete this description, as you have noticed from the beginning, we have received ONE request, and no more. The way to change any rule exists and is simple: each competitor is connected with a NAC (national organization for the specific airsport) and can propose changes and more through his/her delegate - but only in time and at the correct place. I do not know yet whether the 3-year rule is a correct rule or not. It could also be reduced to two years or increased to four years, who knows? There are also other alternatives in the sports world if we want to look at the others customs. However, our set of rules is generally clear but still miss a good communication, and it is not very well known by the competitors themselves."

Sinapsi PD line-up in Croatia 2004
Finally, Girardin still acknowledges that mistakes were made, and he understands that Italy might have a reason to complain about the current situation:

"There is no doubt that a mistake has been made in the first answer to Italy, but it was made with a generous purpose and nothing else. This is up to the Italians to - maybe - complain against the clarification made by the CASI, but no more. I can garantee that another CASI position would have received more than one complaint coming from NAC's touched by this Italian team composition!"

Italy might not be as alone in its position as Girardin currently believes. The NSL News has already received feedback from other international competitors who support the Italian position, and this feedback will be posted soon. There have been several world champions and world class competitors in the history of Formation Skydiving who competed for different nations without the specific timing problem that currently causes the trouble for the Italian team. This timing problem was not created by the Italian team, it goes back to the time when the cycle of the world meets was changed. Stay tuned, the story will be continued.

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