Assessment, A few days after the end of the Olympic Judo Tournament, the time has come to analyze everything that happened in London. The judo world is now entering a new cycle, which will end with the 2016 Games. An extensive analysis of the past four years that saw judo profoundly change will be conducted by all the components of the International Judo Federation. What is positive or what needs to be corrected will be dissected in order to continue to propel international judo on the path towards development it has taken in recent years.
The Universality of Judo Enhanced
For the 2012 edition of the Olympic Games, 135 country delegations traveled to the British capital, which represents a record number of participation since the creation of the Olympic Judo Tournament. This places our sport in the top three most popular events of the Games. Among the delegations, 18 were invited and 117 qualified through the Worldwide qualification system, (before it was continental), which was introduced for the first time after the Beijing 2008 Olympics. After 7 days of competition, 23 countries reached the podium of the Olympic Tournament and 38 countries entered the final block (the last eight competitors in each category). It is important to observe that among the women’s categories, the seven titles were won by seven different countries: Brazil, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Slovenia, France, USA and Cuba.
With two weight categories per day, a total of 387 athletes competed for the ultimate title, while during the two years that counted for the Olympic qualification, nearly 5,000 athletes from 200 IJF member federations collected points to obtain their ticket to the Games.
Of the 14 Olympic Champions who were crowned in Beijing in 2008, 7 came to London to defend their title… without success, although three of the seven again reached the final block (Alina Dumitru ROU, -48kg; Ole Bischof GER , -81kg and Naidan Tuvshinbayar, MGL, -100kg) and over 30 world champions were also present.
These statistics clearly illustrate the universal dimension that judo has achieved, particularly in recent years, giving everyone an opportunity to be present at the big Olympic rendezvous. The number of judo athletes who were flag bearers at the opening ceremony of the Games, has even further strengthened this impression of the universality of judo, since there were not less than 20 judoka who had the honor of wearing the colors of their National Olympic Committee and of parading in front of cameras and spectators from around the world.
Several factors contributed to the success of this universality. The qualification system established during the Olympiad is one of the factors, but also, the continued support to countries provided by the IJF, which has heavily invested both in the field of training, as well as with equipment (tatami + judogi). The collaboration with Olympic Solidarity and generally speaking with the International Olympic Committee, allowed the judo world to maintain a high standard, and even more, to exceed the targets that were set. After Beijing 2008, the IJF established continental Olympic preparation centers, which enabled many countries to obtain an Olympic qualification, for whom many of them, this was their very first time.
A Modern Way of Presenting the Champions
If for many years, the official draw of the major competitions was rather confidential, things have changed and this important event was open to a large number of participants. In London, several hundred delegation representatives, referees, officials and the media were present. They could all follow a very visual and dynamic ceremony in which the favorites and the outsiders were presented via video.
For the first time, athletes participating in the competition also took part in the draw and the pre-tournament IJF press conference, bringing their own vision of the event. This will happen again in future events organized by the IJF.
During the seven days of the Olympic tournament, the judo hall at the ExCel venue was packed with a crowd that came in masses — the performance residing in the complete change of audience between the morning session (preliminaries) and the afternoon session (final block). It was even necessary to refuse spectators.
Enthusiastic and continuously displaying fair play, thousands of fans enjoyed a wonderful atmosphere whose apotheosis was “the wave”, which was improvised during the last day of the tournament and lasted over 10 minutes. The compactness of the preliminary rounds and of the final block allowed to encourage the loyalty of a new audience who was discovering judo for the first time and who really developed a passion for combats which were strong in emotion and suspense.
International Media Coverage
Judo was largely followed by the national and international media. TV channels, radios, written press and new media came to the ExCel venue and were present on a daily basis in the press tribune and the mixed zone. The service offered by the organizing committee measured up to the level of the event. Press conferences with all medalists took place everyday, only a few minutes after the award ceremonies, giving everyone the opportunity to directly meet with the 2012 Olympic champions and medalists.
For the first time, judo benefited from some major technological advances. For example, the competition was filmed in 3D in addition to the “traditional” TV coverage and a camera was also present in the warm-up area.
The IJF also widely used its own means of communication to spread information. Thus the JUDO Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ijudo) increased its traffic by over 50% during the Games, with a maximum of more than one million people following judo over the Olympic Tournament. The Twitter account (@IntJudoFed) was heavily utilized to provide information for the public and it exceeded 8,000 members while the www.youtube.com/judo account surpassed a million video views and over 4,200 subscribers during the Games. Daily news was published on the IJF home page and press releases were sent worldwide, ensuring optimal media exposure for Olympic judo.
The IJF President, Marius Vizer, and the entire IJF Executive Committee, had the daily pleasure of welcoming the highest sports and political authorities who attended the judo tournament and enjoyed its unique atmosphere. The IOC President, Jacques Rogge, came during the early days of the tournament, followed by several heads of state such as the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron and the French President, Francois Hollande, all three members of the G8. Albert II of Monaco, the President of the Republic of Mozambique, Armando Guebuza, many Ministers and representatives of royal families also attended the judo tournament in London. Finally, countless champions from all other sports traveled to the Docklands to plunge themselves for a few hours or several days in the incredible atmosphere of the ExCel venue.
A Premiere for the World of Sports
With great pride, judo was chosen, as well as athletics, by the IOC to help develop women’s sports and to welcome the first Saudi female athletes ever to participate in the Olympics. Through very good coordination between the IOC, the NOC of Saudi Arabia and the IJF, young Wodjan SHAHERKANI was able to take part in the judo event, in compliance with the IOC commitments, with a good balance between cultural dimensions and the athlete’s safety. The media interest was particularly significant and press coverage was generally positive.
Organization: A Very High Standard
A hardy round of applause should be given to the organizing committee and particularly to the group led by Lisa Allan, who was in charge of the technical organization of the judo tournament. Months or even years of preparation were necessary to achieve optimum results. The dynamism and cohesion of the technical team were critical factors to the success of the tournament. At any time, volunteers were serving the public, delegations and organizers, in a very professional way and always with a smile.
Objective Rio 2016
The Judo competition at the London Games has just ended and a new era for the judo world is opening its doors. The IJF is now turning toward the South American continent and toward Brazil in particular, where the 2016 Games will be held. In the weeks and months ahead, the past four years will be scrutinized and each sector will be studied in detail in order to draw conclusions and recommendations as a means to always improve. This is a new cycle that has now begun. The objective is clear: it is necessary to continually refine every little aspect because details make the difference. Judo has taken on a decisively modern way of developing, while giving an important role to its roots. The Games in London have shown what media impact judo is capable of and can expect. Significant work will be done in this direction as well as in the development of the image of judo in accordance with its educational dimension, from the grassroots level up to the top athletes and their coaches.
Beginning in October 2012, major international competitions organized by the IJF will be back on center stage, with as a climax, the Team World Championship to be held on October 27 and 28 in Salvador de Bahia (Brazil) — a competition format that would perfectly fit with the Olympic spirit in the 2016 Games. —- IJF