Fabrizio Minnino, Jury President, International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) was in Navi Mumbai recently to have a look at the venue of the upcoming World Cup in bouldering and to make sure that whatever infrastructure is required from the jury’s perspective is in place. Excerpts from a conversation:
Now that you have visited the venue of the upcoming World Cup, what are your impressions?
The first positive thing I felt was the friendliness of everybody around and their desire to organize something that would be known all over the world. Second, the venue was really impressive. I had seen some pictures of it but I didn’t know that it would be this good.
For a world class competition in India, the jury has to come from abroad. That entails cost, adding to the cost of a project like the Navi Mumbai World Cup. What should India do to have an adequate number of qualified judges in climbing here itself; what can the IFSC do to help in this regard?
We must start from the fact that a good judge is an experienced judge. If it was enough that you organize a course and qualify it would be very easy. But the problem is that if you attend a course, qualify and then, you don’t take part in competitions, it is very difficult to be a good judge. The starting point therefore is to have many competitions to judge. This cannot be done by the IFSC. What the IFSC can do is provide support for relevant courses and tutorship. But the competitions have to come up here in India or elsewhere in Asia.
So, there has to be a momentum of competitions going on….
You are President of the Jury. What are the challenges you face in the context of today’s climbing competitions?
I would say that compared to 20 years ago, it is a lot easier to be President of the Jury at a World Cup. One reason for this is that organizers have the ability now to check out what has already happened. The organizing team for the Navi Mumbai edition, had for instance, visited the Munich World Cup. One of its nodal members, Abhijit Burman (Bong), has seen the proceedings at Arco; he has also been to Fredrikshavn. When you have seen others do something, you can do the same. You have your benchmark and your reference. I remember that some of the earlier competitions were difficult because the organizers couldn’t understand what they were expected to do and so the work of the Jury President was sort of double work – you had to play the role of both judge and organizer. I am quite sure that we wouldn’t have to do that here. We would be only judging. At an international level, the most interesting challenge today is the act of taking the World Cup competitions all over the world. As yet, we have never held a competition in Africa and the number of competitions in Asia is slowly going up. The challenge going ahead is to move away from the sport’s European roots and be present all over the world. Being at the Olympics – as we hope to by 2020 – will provide the sport the visibility required to make this transition.
Awareness of climbing is still not high in Asia and Africa, which are the locations of interest to the sport, going ahead. Do you think this may see the IFSC engage in more familiarization programmes for the sport in these geographies?
It could be. We will have to discuss it with local federations. If there is a genuine desire to have a larger family for the sport or get the sport better recognition, we can provide the support but the organizing would have to be local.
Judging in various sports is getting increasingly technical. What is the experience in climbing – is it becoming more technology?
Technology can help you but the main point is – you have to have common sense. If you don’t have that, you can’t be a good judge. Also, at competitions, there are two roles involved – there is the judge and there is the route setter. Technology cannot be of much help for the route setter because that art is based on an understanding of how the body moves while engaged in climbing.
Are climbing competitions becoming more and more intense and competitive?
In the beginning we had only lead and speed competitions. Then bouldering arrived; it is completely different from lead. Speed, lead and bouldering are different from each other. The challenge is to go in one direction, where the best athlete is the best athlete in all the three disciplines. So we are now discussing the Olympic format and the Olympic format is to award the really best climber in all the three disciplines. This is the challenge for the coming years.
What impact will the Olympics have on the sport?
It will have enormous impact. A lot more people will get to know about the sport. Getting into the Olympics has been a 20 year-old dream.
Does entering the orbit of the Olympics set any expectations in terms of improving the quality of judging you do? Would you be required to be more exact for instance?
I don’t think so. We are quite professional.
How important is it for a judge of climbing to be also an active climber?
For me, it is important because you must have a feeling of the body movement involved. For me it is very important.
(The author, Shyam G Menon, is a freelance journalist based in Mumbai.)