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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

Far right Romania's Alina Dimitru tussles in the final of the women's judo RightAnh Hoang won silver for Vietnam in weightlifting How would you describe the significance of Olympic Solidarity for the Olympic Movement? Having had the privilege of being part of the creation and development of Olympic Solidarity from day one, I feel strongly about the great significance that Olympic Solidarity has had, and will continue to have in the future – for the whole Olympic Movement, but in particular for the National Olympic Committees ( NOCs). The clear vision of President Juan Antonio Samaranch and the firm backing of his successor, President Jacques Rogge, for this body have provided fundamental support throughout nearly three decades of outstanding achievements. Through consistent and close collaboration between the International Olympic Committee ( IOC), the Association of National Olympic Committees ( ANOC) and the Olympic Solidarity Commission we aimed to guarantee the best possible support for the NOCs and their athletes and thereby to strengthen the Olympic Movement and its universality. To sum up Olympic Solidarity's value: It has played an essential role in the fair and equitable distribution of financial resources to NOCs. It has provided a firm guarantee that NOCs, especially those with fewer resources at their disposal, are able to develop their activities. It has given key support to efforts to preserve the independence and autonomy of the NOCs. It has offered a fundamental option which gives all NOCs access to World and Continental Programmes, enabling them better to prepare their athletes to take part in Regional, Continental and Olympic Games and, just as importantly, it has made a decisive contribution towards strengthening and extending the legacy of the NOCs and promoting the Olympic values. In your view, is the correct amount of money being channelled to Olympic Solidarity? The allocation of funds to Olympic Solidarity is the result of very clearly defined rules. Today, we receive what is due to us, although that does not mean include adequate training facilities, a specialised coach in the sport or discipline concerned, regular medical and scientific assistance and check- ups, accident and health insurance, full- board accommodation, and financial help towards entry for, and participation in, Olympic qualifying competitions. The NOC selects candidates for Olympic scholarships and forwards their files to Olympic Solidarity. Each file is then analysed in consultation with the International Federations ( IFs) concerned, which comment on the technical merit of each scholarship candidate. The final decision on whether or not to award a scholarship is made by Olympic Solidarity, which then informs the NOC. From the moment the Olympic scholarship is summit in sport. I've already won something just by going to the Olympics, first to represent my country, then the whole of Africa." The IOC's idea of supporting a number of National Olympic Committees after their countries gained independence originated in the 1960s. An International Olympic Aid Committee ( IOAC) was created in 1961 and transformed in 1968 into an IOC Commission with the same name. In 1971 the Commission was merged with a similar body created by the Permanent General Assembly of National Olympic Committees ( predecessor of ANOC) and thus the Olympic Solidarity Commission was born. In 1981, led by then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and ANOC President and IOC member Mario Vázquez Raña, the Commission acquired its current form with the task of satisfying the needs and interests of the NOCs. In 2001 Jacques Rogge decided to strengthen the work of the Commission and reaffirmed his wish to continue the political and administrative decentralisation of Olympic Solidarity towards the NOC Continental Associations. To this end he appointed Mario Vázquez Raña as Commission Chairman and restructured it. The Commission is now composed mainly of representatives of the NOCs and the athletes. Benefits for Olympic scholarship holders awarded, Olympic Solidarity endeavours to provide optimum training conditions for each of the athletes concerned, and, in close cooperation with the IFs, it has set up a global network of high- level training centres for this purpose, from the World Cycling Centre in Switzerland to the Eldoret High Performance Training Centre in Kenya Olympic Solidarity has reached various agreements with training centres and works closely with a number of NOCs and IFs which offer their national training centres and supervise the scholarship athletes. The decision as to whether the athletes train at home or abroad in approved high-level training centres is based exclusively on the needs of the athletes, the requirements of their sport, and the wishes of the NOC. Following the success of Beijing, proud Commission Chairman Mario Vázquez Raña noted: " Olympic Solidarity has played an important part in contributing to the success of these Games by offering to athletes an Olympic scholarship programme which has allowed them to access crucial technical and financial backing and thus placing them on an equal footing with other athletes from other parts of the world." And following Usain Bolt's example, Mario Vázquez Raña and all of us are now entitled to wonder, who will be the next meteor to rise from the firmament of Olympic Solidarity? ¦ 52OLYMPIC REVIEW OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY MARIO VÁZQUEZ RAÑA, CHAIRMAN OF THE IOC'S OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY COMMISSION