The End of FINA’s Democratic Process?


By John Leonard

It would be the height of irony, if, during the FINA Presidency of the one of the great defenders of democratic process and transparency in governance, FINA suddenly took a veering step to the right and placed the overwhelming majority of power in the hands of three people, two of whom can outvote our FINA President.

Allow me to explain. FINA, under President Julio Maglione, has called a Special FINA Congress for the year 2011 to discuss changes to the Constitution of FINA, which most observers would agree, are much needed. Good idea.

In all other FINA Congresses, a call goes out substantially in advance of the Congress, asking each member swimming federation (such as United States Aquatic Sports) for its input of ideas; etc. that should be considered at the Congress. This supremely democratic process ensures that no matter how “unusual” the idea, it gets its day in the sun and the Congress can vote on it.

Typically the document handed out at the Congress includes a note that indicates if the Bureau supports or opposes the particular item. A stupendous 95% of the ideas that come from outside the Bureau are opposed. Surprise, surprise. BUT they still get to see the light of day at the Congress.

And democracy can indeed rule as happened last summer in Rome, when the USA put new swimsuit rules on the table, the Bureau opposed it, and both the FINA Executive Director AND the President spoke AGAINST the USA proposal and it still passed the congress and the era of the plastic bag suits was dead, at least for a period of time. Democracy ruled and a very bad idea (the plastic bag suits) was soundly defeated, 186-6.

Now suddenly, the FINA three person executive has decided that only Members of the Bureau may propose changes to be considered at the upcoming Congress. No continental associations, and no federations. In point of fact, the document that has come out that shows the proposed changes, shows ONLY proposed changes that were recommended by the FINA Executive…not even those changes sought by Bureau Members, have been included for consideration.

Which means, in point of fact, that three men are running the organization in the lead up to the next Constitutional Congress. And we know that at least the President, is in support of many ideas that DID NOT get advanced. So we have two men, the Executive Director of FINA and the Honorable Secretary, Mr. Paolo BarellI of Italy, running FINA in the leadup to arguably the most important Congress in the history of the Organization.

No democracy, no proposals from members. Just proposals that are acceptable to two men. (0ut of three.)

We have a President who ran for office on the promise of, and his personal history of support for, democracy and transparency in governance. And he’s being outvoted on his own executive committee to turn this process back into an entirely un-democratic organization.

What amazing irony.

Will the Federations of the World stand still for it? Do they accept being merely witnesses at their own de-masculinization?

We live in interesting times.

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