INTERVIEW: DUŠAN SIMONOVIĆ, PRESIDENT OF MONTENEGRIN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE
Small country of big sport potential
Preparations of our sport delegation for upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing are going on in full. In Montenegrin Olympic Committee, for the first time they are working hard on historical job in Montenegro – organization of stay for our athletes, Montenegrin water polo national team and five competitors in individual sports, as well as for other members of Olympic delegation on 29th Olympic Games. Friendly China and Montenegro share one event of great importance for both countries – most populous country in the World as host of the OG and Montenegro as novice on biggest and most prestigious sport event in the World.
On that occasion, we are talking to Dušan Simonović, president of Montenegrin Olympic Committee.
Montenegrin Olympic Committee is one of two last recognized NOC by the International Olympic Committee in beginning of July last year. What would you, being the president of MOC, say is essences of that experience since that day until now?
First of all, I must say it was important impulse, one great pushing force for our sport. As it is known, in the years of our recognition we have made certain lunges in international affirmation of our sport and our athletes. However, results of our attempts gain their valorization only after recognition by the IOC, which is natural.
For us, as it is for any other country, this is great honor, great challenge but at the same tim big obligation.
Namely, though being a small country, Montenegro has great sport potentials, and with status of independent state in International sport federations we have opportunity to show our sport knowledge and proficiency directly in international sport events.
In our efforts to adequalty promote our sport and our athletes we have big support from the International Olympic Committee. And not only from them. Namely, we have big support from other Olympic Committees, especially those from surrounding countries expressing readiness for cooperation with Montenegrin Olympic Committee, based on long term visions and mutual interest.
During the recognition phase we had important support and help from our friends from abroad. Best thing to describe this is fact that country recognised at the same time as we were, waited for seven years on recognition. Of course, we are grateful to all of those who helped us, and on the other hand, I think that with our work present work both in sport and organizational sense, justified given trust by being recognised and accepted into International Olympic family.
Being accepted into Olympic family, MOC became participant of the Olympic movement in new, active way. How do you see future of Olympism in Montenegro?
When talking about Olympic sports in Montenegro, I am sure that they are facing bright future. Of course, from all of us is expected a lot, including athletes themselves their federations and from us in MOC. Also, the State and its line bodies are expected to support young athletes especially those who have a chance to qualify for big sport events including Olympic Games.
From my point of view, I can say that MOC is actively involved in work of bodies and other structures of MOC, and we expect our involvement to be more concrete through engagement in various EOC and IOC commissions, as well as through realisation of different projects submitted to the IOC. As for the home plan, through different projects icluding those who are currently implemented, we are affirming Olympic spirit and that is why we look towards future with optimism, regardless if it’s our reputation in the IOC or our overall status in big Olympic family.
What does MOC do for its international and home affirmation?
Prior to recognition by the IOC, MOC was in very difficult situation. As we all know, our athletes were not able to participate independently in international events, including the Olympic Games. However, MOC tried, as much as it was possible in given circumstances, to fulfill its mission as National Olympic Committee, even though it was very difficult because we faced lots of problems, first of all by not being recognised by the IOC. Luckily, Government of Montenegro understood our aspirations and supported us in realisation of some projects which were very important in that time for popularisation of Montenegrin sport both on home and intenational levels. Even in that period, MOC profiled into ambitious and serious sport institution.
In this context, and due to given circumstances, I would like to mention appearance, i.e presentation of Montenegro at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004. which was very much noticed and had great echo.
In period following the recognition by the IOC, we had new obligations to fulfill. First of all, we had to harmonize all our documents and our overall functioning with principles from the Olympic Charter, basic document of the Olympic movement. I can say that in shor period of time we made big progress, for which we got compliments from the IOC. I must use this opportunity to say that during this process we had great support from IOC experts and other National Olympic Committees, especially those from surrounding countries. All of this influenced on MOC whic is now serious, well organized, central Montenegrin sport institution, which sucessfully performs its mission at home and abroad. For sure we will have to face more new challenges, new requests, but time is our ally and in following years, I am sure, we will turn MOC into one modern, exemplary and clearly profiled sport institution. We are also facing intensive efforts for affirmation of MOC both on home and international levels. I think we have enough resources for this job and that we will perform it continuously and in quality way in following years.
Moreover, we have to have in mind that this is only our first year, that we have just «made first steps», and yet, according to many relevant indicators, we managed to do lots of things and we are happy for compliments we get for this. Besides that, we are fully aware that we still have lots of work to do, but we have clear vision of our development and we will persist in this.
How would you determine present cooperation with IOC and its bodies?
We are in everyday contact with people from the IOC and I can say that our present communication with the IOC is very good and very useful for us. You have to understand, without adequate expert support from the IOC it is impossible to seriously constitute one National Olympic Committee.
Our delegations visited Lausanne several times, and and in many occasions we received particular and important expert and financial support from the IOC. Mutual observation is that we suceeded both in organisational and sport way, and according to officials of the IOC, we can count on their long term full support and help.
Besides, we are young Olympic Committee, but Committee of a country which has excellent athletes and extraordinary sport potentials, and this fact is recogised by the IOC in real way.
Olympism i movement with encyclopedical volume, both in antique and modern times. Will this movement have its specifics in any way in our country?
Even though Montenegro didn’t participate at the Olympic Games independently until now, Montenegrin sport and broader public always followed with attention happenings at the Olympic Games, which can be proved by numerous documents and journal articles, and also lots of memories are preserved in minds of our athletes and sport workers.
As for our particulars, I think that the biggest one in that, according to number of inhabitantas and area, we are small country, and yet we have excellent athletes. It is something that is noticed by all international sport workers and people who are into sport. In Montenegro, sport is very popular and widely practiced, and followed through media a lot. I believe that more intensive happenings in area of Olympism, i.e particulars that you mention, will be cristalised only after this year’s Games, after our citizens really understand that our competitors participate at biggest sport event in the World independently, under thir flag, with their anthem. Opening ceremony of Beijing Games for every our person will be extraordinary, because it will fill him with national pride such he never has a chance to feel so far on this occasion.
Regarding the fact that we really are specific, in sport terms, there is information we got from the IOC that out of 205 countries members of the IOC, 101 country will participate with less than 10 athletes! As we all know, from Montenegro to Beijing will go 20 athletes. Besides members of water polo national team, there will be swimmer Marina Kuč, boxer Milorad Gajović, judist Srđan Mrvaljević, and two athletes.
Olympic Games in Beijing 2008. will be the first Games in which Montenegrin athletes will participate uder our national flag. How to you see so far preparations of MOC and Olympians themselves?
You are witnesses every day, throught media or some other sources, of very intensive preparations of our Olympic candidates for participation at the Olympic Games. We are in every day contact with federations whose athletes will participate in Beijing. So far, everything is going on according to plan in very positive atmosphere.
As I said several times, MOC will provide all necessary preconditions for quality preparations and participation of our athletes at the Olympic Games in Beijing. It is our obligation which we will, I am sure, sucessfully respond to.
Do you think that Montenegrin companies reconise importance of supporting sport?
As you know, this year we closed two important contracts with two Montenegrin companies. Namely, First Bank of Montenegro is our general sponsor, and Montenegin Telecom is golden sponsor of Montenegrin Olympic Committee.
We also signed contract with Radio Television of Montenegro on media sponsorship, which I consider wery important since it will contribute to affirmation of MOC’s work and popularisation of sport in right way.
Also, we were announced cooperation with several big Montenegrin companies.
We are very pleased that companies of such market strenght, that are most successful ones not only in Montenegro, recognised MOC as quality and goog partner. On the other hand, we are open to cooperation with other major companies. Of course, we do this carefully and selectively because we think that partnership with National Olympic Committee represents issue of prestige for some company.
Fight against doping
Fight against doping, affirmation of women participation in sport and sport bodies, inclusion of youth in sport activities, are only some of areas in which IOC wishes to achieve more. How actual are these issues Montenegro?
MOC aready dealt with these issues. First of all by participation in internationa conferences dealing with these topics. Furthermore, human resouces dealing with these issues are already recognised and educated, we have financially and technically supported realised activities other than Olympic Committee’s in area of affirmation of sport values you are talking about. On the other hand, we supported activites going on in direction of doping supression and use of illicit substances, to which we will be at most dedicated in future period.
Affirmation of Olympism in Montenegro
With great interest and passion, Montenegrins follow everything happening at international and home scene. According to you, how can be Olympism more approximated to people in Montenegro?
One of basic mission of every National Olympic Committee, including ours, is spreading of Olympism idea. We know that Olympic idea is one of extraordinary heritages of modern civilization and as such it promotes foundations of modern world values, the world we are living in. Those are ideas of tolerance, peace, humanity, equality and all good things, that enable people to live peaceful and and nice life. From the very beginning we understood this dimension of our Olympic Committe’s mission and we dedicate special attention to that topic. In that sense, we realized several activities and projects, and in future period we plan more, in regards to our status in international Olympic movement. First of all, we will be leaning to support and suggestions from the International Olympic Committee, and some activities we will realise in cooperation with major Montenegrin companies, media, municipalities, schools, etc. One such project started just recently. In cooperation with Montenegrin Olympic Committee, Montenegrin Post issued postal stamp anent these year’s Games. It is interesting project which will contribute to popularization of Olympism in our country, in its way. For sure there will be more similar activities, especially in this year, year of the Games.
I would also like to mention that recently we organised expert conference of educational character in cooperation with Montenegrin Sport Academy, which was very useful for sport workers having in mind lecturers and topics covered.
Also, another current project I would like to mention is „Olympic caravan“, which will visit all Montenegrin cities with aim to present all characteristics of the Olympic movement to citizens, especially the youth.