HomeInterviewExclusive: Rowing Australia Focused On Value Of Tokyo Olympics

Exclusive: Rowing Australia Focused On Value Of Tokyo Olympics

Exclusive: Rowing Australia Focused On Value Of Tokyo Olympics

In an exclusive interview, Rowing Australia CEO, Ian Robson, spoke to Ministry of Sport about the impact the Olympic Games has on the national sporting organisation (NSO), and reflects on COVID-19.

Discussing the impact the Olympic Games has on commercial partnerships for Rowing Australia in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, Robson said the product of rowing is best suited to values-based organisations.

“In every four-year cycle, with no disrespect to the world cups and world championships we compete at, whether senior or youth, we truly have the eyes of the world on us for seven days every four years at the Olympic Games, including the 3 or 4 days for the Paralympics a month or so later,” Robson told Ministry of Sport.

“We’re not a sport like athletics or swimming that have big global world championships that draw massive audiences and attention, we’re not a Commonwealth Games sport so we don’t come up on the radar every two years for that.

“This is our time where we’re our most visible in terms of public radar and visibility of sport.

“It’s crucial we perform, we achieve our goals and targets, we bring home some medals, we engage with our audience and inspire future generations of athletes.

“It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate to corporate Australia, Rowing Australia and the sport of rowing in Australia is a product, it’s a prospective investment that can be really aligned to values-based organisations.

“We can never be like the professional sporting codes or the cricket or tennis, we will never produce those eyeballs.

“We know what we are not, but we know what we are.

“We’re a strong, values-based proposition and we will continue to advocate and look for partners that want to share that journey with us.

“That’s why we’re so grateful for the support we have from all our partners,” he said.

Reflecting back on the onset of COVID-19 at the start of 2020, Robson said the focus is now on the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place at the end of July this year.

“The bad news of last year for the athletes were that the Olympic Games were rescheduled but the good news was the Games were rescheduled and not cancelled and we will still get a chance to compete, and we’re excited about that,” Robson said.

“There’s 130 days to go, give or take a few, until the regatta gets underway in Tokyo for the Olympics, and then a little longer for the Paralympics.

“We’ve all lived a lot; we will have stories to tell our grandchildren of the year we’ve just come through.

“We’re thankful everyone’s safe and healthy, we’re pleased with the work the athletes have done, and we’re excited to get the chance to race and compete on the world stage again and hopefully bring home some medals,” he said.

Expanding on the return of live outdoor rowing competitions, after 2020 saw Rowing Australia shift to a focus on indoor rowing competitions due to COVID-19 lockdowns and the shutdown of sport, Robson said participation numbers have been really promising.

“On a couple of different fronts, we’ve got our visions for growth and development of new products and innovation with technology, but at the core, we’re really pleased our races and school regattas are back around the country,” Robson said.

“We’ve seen really solid numbers, and, in some parts of the country, record numbers of people looking for opportunities to race and participate.

“In many respects, the COVID shutdown reminded us all just how important sport, participation and being around clubs and being around people with like-minded ambitions to participate in sport is.

“It’s great not just physically, but psychologically and our holistic wellbeing.

“We were forced to refocus, and for a lot of businesses that has helped defined the next generation of growth.

“For us, like a lot of NSOs, there’s always a reality of where our ambition lies and where our resource capability lies.

“We’re working hard to gather like-minded partners to work with us on the innovation play, but also continuing to keep up the pace with our competitions,” he said.

When asked what Rowing Australia would do differently if placed back at the start of 2020 with all the knowledge gained from the past year, Robson said it is more important to take that knowledge to look forward.

“The reality is we’re facing a once in a century pandemic, we had history books to read on how the world dealt with the Spanish flu at the turn of the century,” Robson told Ministry of Sport.

“The world is such a different place because of technology and the ability to communicate and travel and the way of the global economy.

“I reflect with pride on the way the organisation responded, took care of our people, took care of our athletes, given those athletes have worked so hard for now five years to fulfil their Olympic and Paralympic dreams.

“I would rather reflect now on the basis of how do we apply what we know going forward.

“For a while, one of the big lessons we learned is you can make decisions on any given day based on the information you have at that time, but a day later if that information changed and you had to make a different decision, and you had to be comfortable with that.

“If the decision you made the day before was wrong, you had to adjust and understand what agility looks like in decision making.

“I’m really proud of the way we made it through that time, and I’m excited about where we land today, mindful of all we endured around the world and loss of life and all the challenges we’ve faced.

“We’re blessed to be in Australia and all my counterparts around the world say the exact same thing, ‘wow what a great job you’ve done down there’,” he said.

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