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10th Indian Ocean Islands Games in Mauritius – July 19-28, 2019: Post-Games interview with National Sports Council chief executive Jean Larue |03 August 2019

10th Indian Ocean Islands Games in Mauritius – July 19-28, 2019: Post-Games interview with National Sports Council chief executive Jean Larue

Mr Larue (second left front row) at the IOIG in Mauritius

Some athletes tried to hold the country hostage, thinking they are too skillful and indispensable

With the curtains down on the 10th Indian Ocean Islands Games held from July 19-28 in Mauritius, the local sports authority surely has taken notes on several issues regarding the event, one of them being the preparations leading to the Games.

Despite the late preparations, Team Seychelles managed to finish fourth overall with 110 medals – 28 gold, 32 silver and 50 bronze –, behind Reunion (third with 178 medals including 46 gold), Madagascar (second with 127 medals including 49 gold) and host Mauritius(first with 224 medals including 92 gold).

With the 11th Games set to take place in 2023 in the Maldives, the National Sports Council (NSC), which implements the country’s sporting policies, will surely need to set up stricter and tighter guiding principles, with the collaboration of the different sports federations and associations, in regards to preparations, including action plans, if we want to better the country’s performance and results within the region.

For the 10th Games, a budget of R30 million was allocated to the NSC to ease the athletes’ preparations during overseas and local training camps along with all the attached logistics and also to pay for Team Seychelles’ registration fees at the Games, along with airfares and other expenses.

Sports NATION met up with NSC chief executive Jean Larue who was also the chef de mission for Team Seychelles at the 10th IOIG and he answered our questions regarding the event.


Sports NATION: R30 million was allocated for the Games. Did the sports authority manage to attain its objective from the funding received?


Jean Larue: Yes, we received R30 million and to be precise R20 million from the government, while the remaining R10 million was from corporate social responsibilities (CSR) contributions. From that, we had to ease the athletes’ preparations, including overseas and local training camps with all the attached logistics and also for Team Seychelles’ registration fees at the Games, along with airfares and other expenses. With the allocated budget we managed to cater for everything. So, if you look at it in this context, I would say yes it was enough and we did a great job spending the money wisely.


Sports NATION: Is the authority satisfied with the final result of Team Seychelles?


Jean Larue: Not only the authority, but the whole country as a nation is very satisfied with the results. Our prognostic was fourth place and about 30 medals and we more or less achieved the target.

Once we set the target, some federations worked hard to help achieve it and we have seen the results of their hard work at the Games.

I think it took the athletes a while to realise that there was a target, but once it sunk in, they were all up for the challenge, especially with the backing of the local public. So, yes, in general I can say we are very satisfied.


Sports NATION: There were a number of hiccups prior to the Games, especially during the last two weeks when athletes were complaining about several issues in regards to their preparations. Do you think it had a negative impact on the overall result?


Jean Larue: Most of the situations were related to sporting federations who failed to submit their preparation plans as requested by the NSC. You cannot decide at the last minute that you want a training camp. Other than putting pressure on your own athletes, you are also putting pressure on the government and the NSC. As you could witness, it was only a handful of sports disciplines that were complaining. Most federations submitted their detailed plans and it is these same sports with proper preparation plans that were more successful at the Games. So, as a whole, the sports disciplines which were complaining have their own federations to blame as they were the ones responsible to work on the preparation plans and submit them on time, instead of waiting until the last minutes to ask for training camps and releases from work.


Sports NATION: Being the chef de mission, how would you describe the performance of team Seychelles, both in terms of performance and behaviour?


Jean Larue: Regarding behaviour, I can say ‘hats off’ to the team. Everyone behaved well and I think that the meeting we had prior to the Games with the teams’ representatives really helped. I personally had a meeting with them on day one and I stressed on good behaviour, discipline and respect for the property. Even when we were leaving the hotel, the manager was very happy with our behaviour. So, as chef de mission, leading a team, I am very satisfied with the athletes’ behaviour.


Sports NATION: How would you describe the 10th Games as a whole, in terms of organisation, including performances, logistics and the different protocols?


Jean Larue: Since Seychelles has organised the Games twice, we already have enough experience on how to host a game from top to bottom. The first thing that the Games’ organising committee should have done was to make sure that everyone received their accreditation on day one and they did not do that. Even when the Games were nearly ending, some members of the different delegations had not yet received accreditation cards. Some people went through the whole Games without their accreditation card. Even Designated Minister Macsuzy Mondon received her accreditation on day five and this is not at all acceptable.

There was also the ticket problem. Tickets were not available when most of the venues were empty. The impression I get is that all of these were all planned ahead as a manoeuvre to frustrate all foreign delegations. They however did well by placing all delegations in hotels which were very comfortable.


Sports NATION: Was it a good idea to accommodate athletes in hotels rather than in a Games’ village?

Jean Larue: Staying in hotels limited the spirit of friendship which is a key aspect of any Games, even if it was comfortable. Therefore, the 10th Games were not that successful in terms of making new friends and cultural exchanges between the different countries.


Sports NATION: We have seen some positive results from our handisports athletes. Is there any plan for a more detailed and precise strategic plan to encourage more athletes in that category to come forward and showcase their talent?


Jean Larue: Work has already been done in that area as locally we have the Paralympics and the National Olympics. The way forward now is for them to work together as one body, instead of individually. When you are divided, you become weak. But I am happy that nowadays parents are not ashamed to bring their disabled children out, involving them in the different activities that are being organised at national level. Another thing that made me really happy was the friendship and togetherness between the handisports athletes and their other peers. There was no discrimination and all the special athletes were made to feel part of Team Seychelles and they were very comfortable. So, based on that, I will urge parents to allow their children to be involved.


Sports NATION: There were three countries bidding to host the 11th Games in 2023. Was there any interest on the part of the Seychelles government to join the bid?


Jean Larue: No, not at all. There were three countries bidding and Seychelles was not involved.


Sports NATION: Being a future host, what are the lessons learned from the 10th Games?


Jean Larue: The main lesson is whenever you commit yourself to do something, you need to it right and the accreditation of the different delegations is the key. It is just a card, but it signifies a lot as it allows movement and prevents confusion. All the sub-committees within the main organising committee need to do their part of the job well. Until now, they are still talking about the 8th Games which we hosted and we can proudly say that we did a good job in every aspect of the games.


Sports NATION: We have witnessed some bold moves by some local sports federations to revamp their selections by replacing seasoned athletes with younger ones and in some cases it worked. Do you think it was a wise move since, according to critics, the results could have been way better had the federations stuck to the old guards?


Jean Larue: Yes, it is a very good initiative and the results have proved it. Too bad for those who chose not to represent the country and they should also know that no one can hold a country hostage. Some athletes tried to hold the country hostage, thinking they are too skillful and indispensable. The Games are over and I am proud to say that the young athletes did a good job. One thing the more experienced athletes should remember is that they were once young and their path to experience began exactly as that of the young athletes who are competing today. Even the technicians from other delegations commented on our youngsters, with some of them saying that Seychelles is preparing for 2023.


Sports NATION: The next Games are in 2023 in the Maldives and based on previous experience, has the authority worked on a preparation plan already, or will it be a last minute affair as for the 10th Games?


Jean Larue: As from Monday, all the sports federations will be asked to prepare their four-year strategic plan as we definitely have to change the way we work.


Sports NATION: What are the targets and the steps being taken for 2023?


Jean Larue: As from today, all athletes called up for the different national selections will undergo a compulsory drugs test, as well as a Body Mass Index or BMI as it is most commonly known. Other elements will also be put in place to ensure that the different federations are really implementing the plans in a very systematic way. Another thing which will be compulsory will be the youth development plan of each federation.


Sports NATION: How will the plan for 2023 fit in with the other major sporting events leading up to the 11th IOIG?

Jean Larue: Like I said, the youth development programme will be crucial as it will enclose athletes for other Games such as the Jeux de la Commission de la Jeunesse et des Sports de l'Océan Indien (CJSOI). We definitely have to change the way things are presently being done, especially after strong comments from members of the public who are in full support of our athletes.

So, the groundwork starts on Monday with the four-year strategic plans from the sporting federations


Interview conducted by Roland Duval


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