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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

OLYMPIC REVIEW53 OLYMPIC SOLIDARITY that it is as much as we need. The growth of worldwide Olympic sport comes with increased needs in the field of sport development. Realistically speaking, Olympic Solidarity cannot cover everything. Just as crucial are contributions from governments and the private sector, including sponsors at national and international level. What has been your greatest challenge during your term as President of the Commission? My main mission has been to coordinate activities designed to establish and implement the process of decentralising funds and to work closely with the Continental Associations. This policy has better enabled us to make decisions leading to customised solutions of country- specific problems. Another important task is to guarantee absolute transparency in the management of financial resources allocated to each activity and to exercise effective control over their use and application for approved objectives. And what has given you the greatest satisfaction? My greatest satisfaction has been to be able to help and collaborate with the Olympic Movement for the benefit of NOCs which have a crucial role in reaching out to children and young people around the world. It really is not about my personal satisfaction, but about common achievements, which, among other things, had the following objectives: the continuing increase in funds allotted to NOCs; better support in every sense for athletes, leading to better results and universality at the Olympic Games; expansion of sports infrastructure; a significant increase in activities designed to promote the inclusion of women in sport as well as the protection of the environment, the promotion of Olympic education and the legacy of the NOCs. Whilst I feel pleased with the work we have done so far, there is no time to rest. We have to continue this successful path and plan the future steps. What does the future hold for Olympic Solidarity? Will there be changes? We started with creating the body " Olympic Solidarity" and then lifted its activities progressively to higher levels. I see a promising future for Olympic Solidarity – the leadership of the Olympic Movement is consolidated and the needs as well as the benefits of sport development are uncontested. One of Olympic Solidarity's key- objectives is to support NOCs in reaching out to young people across the world – to get them into sport, to keep them into sport and to help them in excelling. In today's world, this endeavour and the role of sport and its values are more significant than ever before. Today, it would be impossible to imagine the work of NOCs and the development of training programmes without the support of Olympic Solidarity. In future this interdependency will become even more important. I am fully convinced that my successor, while making his or her characteristic mark, will continue to reinforce this pathway to success. Following the success of the Solidarity programme for the Summer Olympic Games, for the first time in Vancouver in 2010 there will be a full Winter Olympic Solidarity scholarship programme with the same format as for the Summer Games. For Torino in 2006 there was a Solidarity programme of assistance, but for Vancouver there will be more specific help for athletes which allow them to train in better conditions two years prior to Vancouver. The programme is not about making countries who have no tradition for Winter Games start to take part so the eligibility of the NOCs for the programme depends on their delegation size in the 2006 Torino Games. The aim is to assist athletes in order to raise the level of the Winter Olympic Games without artificially changing the participation. Turn to page 54 to read four interviews with athletes from around the world, who are benefitting from Olympic Solidarity scholarships ahead of next year's Games. VANCOUVER 2010