President Scarso: «A complex challenge for Verona»
‘The Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships are the most complicated championship to manage’. The president of Federscherma Giorgio Scarso makes no secret of it, the Verona 2018 championship is a complex challenge. 10 years after the Acireale 2008, Italy again hosts an Under -17 and Under-20 World Championship. There are two important future dates that Italian fencing can look forward to: one closer in time, in a year, when the best juniors of the planet will meet in Verona to compete for the world title in the six fencing weapons, and a later one, when these young people will become the centre of attention of a movement that is never subject to crises.
President, 10 years after the last time, Italy will once again host a Junior and Cadet World Championship.
Yes, after Trapani 2003 and Acireale 2008 we are once again organizing a competition which from the point of view of organisation and management is the most complex, although the standards required by the Fie are less demanding that those necessary for a national championship.
What are the organizational difficulties of this kind of event?
It involves a complex preparation for a system of accommodation, transport, logistic and technical planning. It requires considerable commitment and planning, but above all an outstanding capacity for solving the problems that can unexpectedly arise. It is essential to have a flexible and intelligent organizing committee that can deal with last-minute emergencies.
And Verona seems to be able to guarantee these characteristics.
Ever since the hypothesis of the candidacy presented itself, we in the Federal Council analysed the project and believed in the figure of the promotor, the president Luca Campedelli. I have always appreciated his style and consider him to be a guarantee. Not only for the experience he has acquired in managing a Division A football team, but also for his entrepreneurial capacity and his skill in surrounding himself with professional figures suited to managing this or that specific sector. I am also pleased to draw attention to the enthusiasm that he puts into the management and promotion of fencing. The facility that he has organized in Verona is of the highest level. We can say that in Verona fencing has not only come out from under the stairway, but has installed itself at the highest levels of the system.
A World Championship must not be an end in itself, it must become an event. The technical standards are the same everywhere, whether in Plovdiv, Tashkent or Verona. What makes the difference is what surrounds it: the involvement of the media, of the socio-economic system, of the city. The ability to create expectation so that the event is experienced in its entirety and has an impact on society.
What kind of impact are you referring to?
I mean the emulation effect and I would like to give an example. If 50% of the athletes present in Rio were Sicilians, the merit is certainly that of the fencing masters, but I believe credit should also be given to the events organized in Sicily, from the Junior and Cadet World Championships of Trapani and Acireale, to the Catania National Championships. This has all meant that fencing was talked and written about , and when you open a newspaper and regularly find fencing reported in it, you begin to perceive fencing a sport that is worthy of attention, and no longer with diffidence as something far removed from you. They won't say to you any more: ‘Oh, do you really do fencing?’, but: ‘So you do fencing!’. And this is how that humus is created on which it is possible to bring up a generation of fencers in the hope that some of them will become the crown jewels of the National team. But apart from the results in competitions, the important thing is that fencing is talked about.
The Federation, however, does not seem to want leave anything to chance, even when it is a matter of medals, and it has already launched a specific project to prepare the athletes for Verona 2018.
A World Championship is always prepared in the best possible way, and if it takes place in Italy we have an even greater duty to perfect the preliminary organization. It is for this reason that the Federal Council has approved the project ‘Towards Verona 2018’, which envisages ad hoc financing.
What does it consist in?
It enables the coaches to dedicate greater attention to the junior sector, essentially in four different ways: involving Juniors and Cadets in the retreats of the National Championships, with specific training sessions for the Under -17 and the Under-20, guaranteeing a continuous participation in the European Cadet Circuit with precisely defined teams, making possible greater participation in the Under-20 World Cup Championships.
The junior categories are the basis for the future, and Italy has demonstrated an extraordinary continuity over time, that goes beyond any generational turnover. How is it possible?
I myself, that I'm starting to get on in years, remember that after the 1960 Games there was a period of crisis. In the 1950s our teams were the ones to beat, then we came to the Rome Olympics on the wave of enthusiasm for the event that was being competed in at home, and the results corresponded to the potential, but then came the crisis. The membership of the same, increasingly old, athletes in the teams was protracted, and there were considerable difficulties in terms of generational turnover, even if some excellent results were in any case achieved. The positive circuit was resumed in the 1980s with the famous Mestre school, which trained champions capable of giving rise to a period of great prestige for foil.
What was the behind this rebirth?
Of fundamental importance was the idea of the president Renzo Nostini to institute the Junior Gran Premio Gran Premio Giovanissimi. It was then that those promises emerged and were then realized at the highest level. This was followed by increased attention to the Under- 17 and Under-20 categories, from which are then selected the participants in the major National championship.
And the Junior Gran Premio is today a fundamental event of the season.
Considerable credit for this should be given to the masters, who are highly attentive to this competition. We have masters of the National team who might be in Shanghai on Sunday for the World Cup and on Thursday in Riccione to follow the younger ones at the Junior Gran Premio. This generates a virtuous mechanism that enables the coaches to select from the juniors, forces the veterans to maintain a high level so as to keep their place in the team, and the juniors themselves to work hard to unseat the veterans. A mechanism that many of the media find inexplicable, but which is perfectly explicable in terms of the commitment of the athletes, masters, sports club and the Federation.
Verona 2018 takes place in a period in which Italy will host many fencing events of international importance. After the disappointment over Rome 2024 a fresh start was made.
Yes, there's no point eternally regretting Rome 2024. So we are relaunching ourselves by organizing a series of events that involve the whole spectrum of our system. We will begin with the Military World Championships: it has been said that we could have done without them and, yes, we could do without everything, it would be enough to organize the National Championships every year and we would be in line with our institutional obligations, but the Federation must do more for this sport. Then we will have the Para-Olympic World Championships, important also for their social impact, for equal opportunities, for the freeing of a sector that is an integral part of the fencing system. We will have the Junior and Cadet World Fencing Championships in Verona, a fundamental event also because the Cadet competition qualifies for the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games. And 2018 will continue with the European para-Olympics and the Master World Championships, an event that is increasingly popular and increasingly complex to manage. In 2019 we will then have the European Junior and Cadet Championships in Foggia. Not to forget the other events.
Beginning with the World Cup.
Yes, with four events: men's and women's foil event in Turin, the Luxardo for the men's sabre event in Padua, one of the most popular competitions of the international circuit, men's épée event in Legnano. Then the Under-20 World Cup, which for the last few years has found a fixed venue in Udine, becoming a great organizational success, after touring Italy with mixed results. Then the European Cadet Circuit, in Rome, to highlight the event even more.
So many competitions.
This is good for the athletes, an organizational gymnasium, it creates work opportunities, shows the world what fencing represents in Italy. And it serves to confirm that fencing is not just related to the Olympics, but is also of interest during the intervening four-year periods. It's not only the medals that count but a system that operates at 360 degrees and involves everybody, from the secretarial office to the umpiring sector, from the commissions to the Federal Council and even to the regional committees, without underestimating the ability to enter into a dialogue and collaborate with foreign federations hosting athletes and instructors of other nationalities, and sending our fencing masters abroad.
A large number of people involved.
Yes. And anybody who has the desire, the enthusiasm and capacity can make a contribution to all of this, it's not necessary to be on the Federal Council to lend a hand at one of the great events of Italian fencing. I would like to recall that in 2018 the National Championships will be held in Milan, thanks to an organizing committee which has shown itself capable of hosting an Italian championship worthy of this city. And in this case we would also like to host the Committee of the International Federation, which will be meeting exactly in early June.