By Steven V. Selthoffer, Chief European Columnist
BUDAPEST, Romania, June 2. IT is official. In a monumental and sweeping victory, former swimmer/rugby player and sport executive, Mr. Alin Petrache won the Romania NOC election with more than 70% of the vote, taking 143 out of 202 possible votes, becoming the new President of the Romanian National Olympic Committee last week. This has been one of the most important election victories for Olympic sports and aquatics in a number of ways.
As everyone knows, there is a wet and dry side of competitive swimming globally. The wet side gets the overwhelming amount of attention, glamour and press. But, the dry side is no less important, and is woefully under reported. Their vital contributions are virtually ignored most of the time.
Without the “dry side” of sports, the people, the sport executives, former swimmers and athletes who get up just as early, are just as dedicated, who have taken their lessons from off the field and have implemented them into the sphere of politics… are now making vital contributions to eliminating the corruption, the chronic underfunding and are straightening things out.
Without people like Scott Blackmun, and Alin Petrache there would be no strong Olympic teams, no money for athletes, no great facilities, no really cool sport equipment sponsors or world cup events. They make an immeasurable contribution which is often underappreciated and constantly overlooked, that betters the lives of athletes and others who come after them. The Blackmuns and Petraches of this world want to give other young athletes a better chance in life, one with more opportunities than they or the previous generations have had.
This is one of those stories.
Petrache is like football’s Romario. Romario is the legendary striker from Brazil. Romario won the last state election and is now a Brazilian congressman dedicated to fighting corruption in national government with the build-up to Rio 2016. We need more Romarios and more Petraches behind the scenes in sport. Their influence and contribution goes way beyond their “own turf.”
Up and coming
Petrache’s win changes not only the sport landscape and politics in Romania, but, in Europe as well. Petrache is a new breed of sport executive. Untouched by scandal or corruption, usually associated with Eastern Europe, Petrache has created and produced a top-level strategic plan, not only for the Romanian NOC, but, for the whole country as well, linking everything, government, media, economic growth, education, and infrastructure improvement to sports as the main driver. He could easily lead or fit in with any Booz Allen, McKinsey, or BCG team.
Petrache is a congenial, well-rounded and a well-liked sport executive. As a rugby player who knows how to hit, combined with the focused mentality of a swimmer in workout, Petrache has shown he can out-think, out-produce and out-perform his competition, along with the usual basketful of corrupt officials, stay above the usual political infighting, overcome numerous historical, legacy problems and anything else that has come along.
Young swimmer to NOC President
His first sport was swimming, learning to swim early on, beginning at age six. He also enjoyed tennis as a youngster. Then, later settled on a career in rugby.
Petrache was captain of the Romania national team, playing in 32 international scrimmages and played for clubs in the perennially powerhouse leagues of the UK and France.
The Petrache new blue print for sport
Let’s face it. While the entry barriers to becoming a great athlete in swimming aren’t that difficult, it really comes down to facilities to increase the base of swimming. Those are big ticket items that can run into the hundreds of millions of Euros, especially in Europe where new facilities are desperately needed in all 51 LEN countries. Building the new facilities takes coaches, swim team management, city officials, local and national governments, and EU funding. It’s not an easy task. Closing old pools can directly affect seven Olympic sports, including learn-to-swim school programs, rehab, and a host of other events and social needs.
Petrache has won producing one of the most comprehensive and strategic blue prints for sport ever developed. He has put up a solid, realistic, workable overall plan for Romania from 2014-24.
It’s all about substance and delivering with Petrache.
Petrache’s way forward document focuses on: Premise and Strategy, Mission, Objectives, Human Resources, Coaches and Specialists, Financing Activities for Sport, Competitions, and Sport Science.
Petrache’s plan opens with a number of observations discovered by international experts worldwide about sports that not only affect the high performance success of athletes, but, the entire population of a country on the whole.
Unequal access of the population to sport, equals unequal opportunities.
Decline in physical activity leads to obesity and other health problems nationally.
Underfunding the development pyramid base eventually leads to poorer elite performances.
Underfunded physical education classes at all school levels decreases the population potential of the whole nation and has hidden, high, long-term healthcare costs to society for decades.
Petrache’s objectives realize it is important to improve Olympic, World and European Championship, and World Cups performances. He will do this by concentrating on improving all the training processes and facilities of the elite and developing athletes in Romania. They will be hosting more international events at all levels to improve internal national competition, improving education and communication channels for athletes, and work to sustain the life of an athlete once their career is over, helping them to transition into a new, post-sport career.
Petrache will build new regional high performance and scientific centers, and develop the newest strategies for identifying selection, training and promotion of national athletes.
Petrache is a fundraising and program development specialist. He also wants to improve coach’s education across all sports and put in place sport federation representatives with genuine sport and management experience at all levels.
Petrache has made waves across Europe from the “dry side” of sport. Why? Because he has promoted excellence and people with proven merit and is casting off the old, insider political connections, rebuilding sport in Romania from the ground up.
Swimming World previously highlighted top Romanian swim coach, Raluca Steblea, known for her accomplishments raising up top European juniors, becoming the first woman head coach in the Middle East in Dubai. She has more talent than what many have seen poolside. Her organizational skills and professional sport background have not gone unnoticed. Petrache has tapped her as a key player for his management and transition team.
Eastern Europe has always had great athletes. Now they have great leadership. The good news of what is happening now in Romania is sure to spread in the region. Petrache and his management team have hit the ground running and are quickly making sweeping changes from the penthouse to basement, which hopefully, will be copied by neighboring countries. “If he can do it there, so can we here.” Petrache sees no problem with that. He’s a team player who is now raising everybody’s game.
More to come on this development in the future.
For more information, please see: AlinPetrache.ro