50OLYMPIC REVIEW OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY I t would be understandable for an athlete from any of the world's developed nations to have taken for granted the facilities they have used or the coaches they have learned from throughout their career. But athletes from developing countries know it's a different story. Olympic Solidarity is the body that ensures that athletes with talent, regardless of their financial status, have an even chance of reaching the Olympic Games, winning gold medals and breaking world records. Olympic Solidarity is responsible for administering and managing the National Olympic Committees' share of the revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games. Working in particular with the most needy NOCs and their Continental Associations, Olympic Solidarity uses this money to develop assistance programmes. In the four years leading up to the Beijing Olympic Games the total amount allocated was just under a quarter of a billion dollars and a greater amount will be on offer leading up to London 2012. New initiatives to cover Vancouver 2010 and assistance for the first Youth Olympic Games in Singapore later next year are also on the agenda. There are 19 programmes for athletes, coaches and NOC management as well as for the promotion of Olympic values. In addition, the five Continental Associations offer specific programmes to each of their member NOCs. Of the 19 programmes, those for athletes include team sport support grants and subsidies for training young athletes for the Youth Olympic Games and various continental and regional Games. But it is the Olympic " scholarships" that earn most attention. The scholarships give the athletes the opportunity to attend specialist training centres for anything up to two years leading up to a Games. In Beijing, from a total of 1,088 scholarships granted in the run- up to the Games, 591 " scholars" were able to take part in the Beijing Games including 389 men and 202 women representing 151 countries, more than ever before. They won a total of 81 medals including 19 gold, 33 silver and 29 bronze. " WORKING WITH NOCS AND CONTINENTAL ASSOCIATIONS, SOLIDARITY USES REVENUE FROM BROADCAST RIGHTS TO DEVELOP ASSISTANCE PROGRAMMES. IN THE FOUR YEARS LEADING UP TO THE BEIJING GAMES THE TOTAL AMOUNT ALLOCATED WAS JUST UNDER A QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLARS AND EVEN MORE WILL BE ON OFFER IN THE RUN UP TO LONDON 2012"
OLYMPIC REVIEW51 OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY Just as pertinently, the delegations of five NOCs in Beijing were made up entirely of Olympic Scholarship holders: Djibouti, Lesotho, Palestine, Timor- Leste and Nauru. Among the Solidarity success stories in Beijing were three athletes who won their country's first ever Olympic medal: Tajikistan's Rasul Bokiev in judo, Togo's Benjamin Boukpeti in canoeing and Afghanistan's Rohullah Nikpai in taekwondo. Olympic Solidarity has worked closely with the NOC of Afghanistan and their taekwondo athletes since 2004 by placing them in a number of training camps across the world. Thirteen other athletes won a first Olympic medal in a particular sport for their countries, such as the silver won by the Vietnamese Anh Hoang in weightlifting or the gold won by Romania's Alina Dumitru in judo. The 25- year- old, who finished fifth four years earlier in Athens, beat Yanet Bermoy of Cuba in the 48kg final, winning with ippon ( one full point – the highest score a fighter can achieve) after only 80 seconds. She also defeated Japan's Ryoko Tani in the semi- final, who was aiming to win a record third successive Olympic title. Other Solidarity medalists included Abhinav Bindra, winner of the 10m Air Rifle and the first Indian to win an individual Olympic gold medal. Bindra used his scholarship to train for two years at the USA's national training centre in Colorado Springs. And then there was Usain Bolt. The new 100m and 200m Olympic champion and double world record holder has benefited from Olympic Solidarity's assistance since the age of 17 when the Jamaican Olympic Committee asked for financial assistance to support a young athlete not known then to the general public, but who seemed to have definite potential. However, the example of Daba Modibo Keita shows well that it is about more than winning medals. Mali's first world taekwondo champion was not on the podium in Beijing but his story is no less worthy. With over 150 clubs and 500 black belts among 15,000 exponents, taekwondo's popularity has taken on phenomenal proportions in a country that is Africa's seventh largest but one of the world's poorest. After spending two years in France, Keita went to train in the United States. " I've received Olympic Solidarity support since 2005 and it's thanks to this scholarship that I became world champion and that I qualified for the Olympic Games," he says. " It's helped me enormously, and it helps all African athletes. Given the same conditions there are many others who could compete with those from more developed regions. For any athlete the Olympic Games is a dream. It's the highest ? Left Rohullah Nikpai won Afghansistan's first Olympic medal in taekwondo Below Daba Modibo Keita carries the Mali flag during the Opening Ceremony