Olympics-Delegates misunderstood kiteboard vote-Israeli official
* Language problems caused confusion for some voters
* Sailboards could become an unwanted item
By Ori Lewis
JERUSALEM, May 11 (Reuters) - The International Sailing Federation's (ISAF) decision to drop windsurfing from the Olympics in favour of kiteboarding likely came about because some delegates didn't realise what they were voting for, Israel's sailing chief said on Friday.
"The delegates were probably confused or didn't understand the motion fully because of language difficulties, or some may have been napping at the presentations and then cast their votes without realising the implications," Yehuda Maayan told Reuters.
Maayan's comments came as the Spanish Sailing Federation admitted it had voted in error.
"The RFEV (federation) made a mistake in the vote between kitesurf and windsurf as an Olympic sport for Rio 2016. Spain supported and supports keeping windsurf (RS:X) in the 2016 Olympic Games," the federation said in a statement on their website.
"Despite all this, at the last moment the Spanish representative in the ISAF Council voted in favour of kite, an error caused by the confusion in the voting system of which the federation president, Gerardo Pombo, takes full responsibility and for which he asks forgiveness from all the Spanish windsurfers."
The ISAF was not immediately available for comment when contacted by Reuters.
Windsurfing is one of Israel's most successful Olympic sports, having yielded three out of its seven medals, including its only gold, and a number of Israelis have featured highly at world and European championships over the years.
Maayan, the chairman of the Israel Sailing Association, did not attend the Melbourne meeting where the decision was made but said it was surprising that the professional committee's clear recommendation to keep the RS-X sailboard had been voted down.
DECISION PROMPTED JEERS
"The expert committee vote to retain the RS-X sailboard passed 17-2, but ISAF's broader forum where many delegates do not necessarily have an interest in windsurfing, rejected it 19-17," Maayan said.
The decision prompted jeers from leading athletes, but was hailed by kiteboarders whose discipline will be showcased for the first time at the Rio Games in 2016.
Maayan likened the move to judo competitors being told to abandon their skills and compete as wrestlers.
"There is no comparison between sailboard and kiteboard, it's a completely different discipline and requires very different skills, it's like telling judokas: no more judo for you, now you must be wrestlers."
Ben Finkelstein, coach of Israeli women's triple world champion Lee Korzits, voiced concerns to Reuters in a telephone interview about the cost implications of the switch.
"Professional surfers who decide to make the change will be able to use their skills to adapt but I am much more worried about all the clubs and the less expert, young surfers.
"It is a completely different discipline and if we want to nurture competitors in the new discipline it will mean changing the equipment and that will require a huge outlay," Finkelstein said from the Olympic sailing site at Weymouth on England's south coast.
Maayan said for Israel, a country lacking major sports funding and which highlights windsurfing as an important Olympic discipline, the cost of replacing the equipment would be under $1 million, although that was only part of the problem.
"Its hard to spend money when there is so little to go around but add to the price of buying new equipment the cost of training new coaches, it's a tough proposition," he said.
Worried that the ISAF decision would not be changed, Maayan said he could foresee a situation soon when sailboards would be an unwanted item.
"If kiteboarding is indeed adopted, all the Olympic sailboards will be go up in smoke next bonfire night," he said. (Additional reporting by Mark Elkington and Karolos Grohmann)