As 2023 draws to a close then it is time for me as President of the International Dragon Boat Federation to say farewell.
It has been a long journey since I first paddled in a dragon boat in the early 80s. Helping to establish the British Dragon Boat Association in the late 80s led to this wonderful journey, to serve the international dragon boat community. Initially as Vice Chair and Chair of the Competition and Technical Commission and for the past eight years, it has been a great privilege to serve as the President of our remarkable Federation.
It was a great honour to be the joint Chief Official at our first world championships held in Yue Yang in 1995. I learnt so much from Zhou Liwei who was my partner as Chief Official. It was disappointing not to be able to attend the championship in Thailand this year, due to my ill health, and the opportunity to renew my friendship with Liwei and to meet all of my colleagues in person.
I am very proud of the work I did, with others, to establish technical specifications for the dragon boat and paddle, which enabled the standardised manufacture of this equipment around the world and assisted with the development of the sport worldwide. Developing the Race Official training scheme also led to significant improvement in standards of officiating at Championships.
In the past eight years we have focused on improving the governance of our sport with many policies introduced and earlier this year we approved new Statutes and Bye Laws to take our sport forward. We have developed a strong gender balance in our committee structures which must be maintained. The ability to hold meetings by telecommunication methods has greatly increased the opportunities for discussion and meetings on a worldwide basis. The views and opinions of our athletes are so important and the development of the Athletes Commission has enabled their views to be expressed in all decision making processes. We have also focussed on increasing attendance at championships. Record numbers of athletes, clubs and countries attended our championships until Covid dealt its devastation on our sport worldwide. We are now slowly, but steadily recovering.
It is unfortunate that since I became President we have been unable to gain recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which would do so much to solve disputes and help with further development. Let us all hope that the IOC will soon open the application process which has been closed since 2016.
Alan van Caubergh, our Treasurer for the past twelve years, will also be retiring at the end of this year. Alan has played a huge part in our sport. He should also be recognised for the tremendous work he has done and I recommend that at the next IDBF Congress he is recognised as an Honorary Member of the IDBF.
We have developed a strong team over the past eight years with an excellent manner of team work, and consensus in decision making. My deepest thanks to all Council members for your wonderful contribution to the development of our fantastic sport.
May I take this opportunity to wish Claudio, the President Elect, all the best for the future.
Best wishes to you all for the coming Festive season. May you all have a happy and enjoyable time with family and friends.
Mike Thomas IDBF President