In the election of the President of the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOC), Georges Tikmers is the only candidate, and it is almost clear that on Friday he will officially become the highest official of the LOC. The Olympic vice-champion has been working in sports management for 30 years, but expressed confidence that the new position will be able to introduce changes that have not been implemented so far. However, in an interview with the Latvian Television “Sports Studio”, not all his questions were clearly and essentially formulated.
- Tikmers considers the candidacy of one candidate for the position of the President of the LOC to be a normal situation.
- Tikmer is not worried about the lack of sympathy for the Latvian Olympic Committee in the political environment.
- Tikmer does not comment on the place of gambling advertising in sports.
- Athletes do not support athletes’ efforts to find support from non-bank creditors, they promise to improve communication with athletes.
- Tikmers considers the working group of the Ministry of Education and Science on priority sports to be an expert level, he is not worried about the minimal involvement of the LOK.
- For athletes in commercially modest Olympic sports, Tikmer recommends timely thinking about a dual career.
- Timmer wants to launch an effective model for the social protection of athletes.
- For the time being, Tikmer will keep ideas for modernizing the Olympic movement.
Tikmer has been considering the desire to become the president of the LOC for eight years, until last year he decided to act more decisively. At that time, he did not know that the current president of the LOK, Aldons Vrubļevskis, had decided to resign. For the past eight years, Tikmer has been the Secretary General of the LOK.
Tikmers adds to the work done with his own participation the establishment of the Latvian Olympic Unit (LOV), which has gathered the country’s best Olympic individual athletes, the creation of Olympic centers and the introduction of the status of national sports bases, as well as the creation of a sports budget distribution criteria system. Tikmer is particularly pleased with the self-directed project “Sporto whole class”, which already involves 9,000 school-age children.
Timmers believes that there is a need for a change of emphasis in the sports sector, without specifying how this might manifest itself.
He is confused, but not saddened by the situation that there is only one candidate for the position of LOK president. Tikmer emphasized that there has never been much competition, because only twice – in 2012 and 2016 – two candidates for the position of LOK president started. Only sports federations can nominate candidates for the presidency, and no one can apply for themselves, Tikmer reminded.
There were many different behind-the-scenes speeches about potential candidates, but Tikmer did not want to comment on them, including the possible entry of former President Raimonds Vejonis into the LOC’s largest candidates. According to the information at the disposal of “Sporta studijas”, the chairman of the board of the basketball club “VEF Rīga” Edgars Jaunups has also collected support for Tikmer, which the only candidate denied as a matter unknown to him.
Timmer believes that
The LOC must be strengthened as an autonomous sports organization, and its success will not depend on support from political circles.
With the support of the public, coaches and athletes, a lot can be achieved, Tikmers said, citing the opinion of LOK members as important. At the same time, Tikmers, who had previously gained political experience in the “Latvijas ceļš” party, refrained from assessing the assumption that the LOK leadership has not gained sympathy in one of the power parties under its control. The Ministry of Education and Science (MES) responsible for the sports sector is headed by Ilga Šuplinska (New Conservative Party), while her party member Sandis Riekstins is the chairman of the Saeima Sports Subcommittee.
Tikmers said that the change in the opinion of the LOK that the change of LOK management was necessary to wash away the organization’s previous connection with Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs and the party that supported him was said that everyone should interpret their situation. He emphasized that the current commitment has yielded a positive result, because once upon a time, Prime Minister Maris Gailis was ready to listen after the visit to the Lillehammer Winter Olympics in order to create a new Latvian sports system. This has allowed both the creation of the LOV and the provision of funding for it.
Timmers did not express a clear view on the treatment of advertising by gambling companies,
which by law in Latvia cannot be located outside the place of main activity, but in practice the situation in sports is very different. Timmers explained that it is important for the LOK to expand the amount of income for sports and diversify the circle of supporters, but he has not paid special attention to betting.
“I haven’t thought about sweepstakes, I have other projects to supplement LOK’s revenue,” Tikmer said without explaining. “My job as president of the LOC is to strengthen the organization I am going to lead.”
Tikmer, on the other hand, does not support athletes seeking support from non-bank creditors, but added that the choice of cooperation partners is up to each athlete.
According to him, the LOK does not “bring bonuses” and athletes should consider the impact of their actions. Even for the best athletes, state support does not mean 100% security, nor does Tikmer consider it necessary. He calls on athletes to evaluate state support, including training opportunities provided and performance bonuses.
“It is not really normal for an athlete to be free to engage with private sponsors and recklessly engage in promotions that are different. We need to talk to athletes about the benefits and losses for the sports industry,” said the LOK presidential candidate.
Communication with athletes Tikmer considers it especially important and plans to introduce it as a novelty of LOK activities initially with LOV athletes and all sports federations.
Tikmer expects to be addressed by Kārlis Lejnieks, who is the only candidate for the position of LOK Secretary General.
“Obviously, there will be tools to address athletes,” Tikmer said, acknowledging that bans would not achieve much.
Tikmer is not worried that the working group led by the Ministry of Education and Science is working in determining the criteria for the state’s priority sports without the involvement of senior LOK officials. Without receiving an invitation from the leaders, the Olympic Committee delegated its expert LOK Legal Director Raiti Keseli to the working group. “This is the expert level, we are waiting for the results of the working group,” Tikmer said.
On the other hand, regarding the determination of priority sports in the country, Tikmer said that the reforms are mature and they will be.
The LOK has previously called for a distinction to be made between high-performance sports and folk sports, with priorities assessed in each branch separately. Tikmer described the criteria for determining excellence in Olympic sports as very simple – experience in sports at the Olympic Games, representation in LOV formations and success.
If the National Development Program envisages the establishment of a world-class winter sports center in Sigulda, investing approximately 30 million euros in a bobsleigh sled track, it will be a natural issue that will happen to athletes in bobsleigh, luge and skeleton during the reconstruction of the track, added LOK presidential candidate. If the state invests in the center in Sigulda, it will also be necessary to find funds to invest in people and equipment.
Tikmer considers public opinion to be important in defining the value and excellence of sport.
If society needs athletes to win Olympic medals without providing themselves with financial well-being, that is a priority, Tikmer explained. He believes that the barriers that prevent talents from entering the sport should be gradually removed so that future excellence is not lost. In turn, earning a living with Olympic achievements is not possible in all sports, moreover, Latvian athletes may not be at the forefront everywhere.
“Not all sports have so many talents, traditions and opportunities for Latvians to be leaders in 150 disciplines,” Tikmer explained. He reminded that Latvian athletes fight in global competition with less power than their competitors.
As not all sports can earn a living in the Olympic family, Tikmer recommends developing dual career opportunities with a focus on education.
Timmer admitted that in the sport he once represented – rowing – he could not offer anything that would later make an athlete earn in sports. According to him, the choice of sport is up to both the athlete and his family, but opportunities for talent development should be given regardless of the chosen activity.
Tikmer considers social protection for athletes an important issue and wants to launch an effective model.
Timmer admits that in non-Olympic sports, not all achievements can be applied to the Olympic standard, but the context can certainly be found. Tikmer sees excellent athletes in Latvia who deserve support in orienteering, floorball and motor sports.
Tikmer considers the future of the Olympic movement difficult, as evidenced by the Covid-19 crisis. He does not want to predict the future and is not in a hurry to present his vision of modernizing the Olympic movement, because he considers the LOK to be his area of responsibility and is not the best time to advance grandiose ideas.
“When we are asked for ideas, I will meet the executive committee and formulate them,” Tikmer said.
Tikmer wants to get amendments to the LOK statutes to limit the term of the president. In addition to the social protection and dual career of athletes, his priority sports list will include indexing the benefits of Olympic champions and preserving the Olympic heritage by creating an interactive Hall of Fame.