TOKUSHIMA (FIBA Asia Championship) - For some, induction into the International Olympic Committee as a member is an achievement in itself. But for some others, like Patrick Baumann it's a start of a new learning process.
"It's a result of the support a lot of people have shown me. It's also an indication of the trust these illustrious people have reposed in me and in our sport," he told this correspondent during an interview on the sidelines of the Championship.
Patrick, first of all congratulation on becoming one of the youngest members of IOC. Your feelings…
Obviously I've been fortunate to have the support of a lot of people like my mentor Mr Stankovic and the FIBA president Mr. Elphinston.
The Asian community too has been very supportive.
And finally I'm thankful for Dr. Rogge for proposing my induction.
I'm one of the youngest in the Committee. It's a great honor. But I'll be learning sitting with them. All of them are extraordinary people, who know what they are talking about.
What is your vision for FIBA vis-à-vis your presence in the IOC?
First things first, I owe my thanks to FIBA for my nomination. For FIBA, it's very important having the Secretary General in IOC. It demonstrates that, despite me being Swiss, that basketball is very strong in the Olympic movement.
It's important for FIBA, as for example, we want to have 16 teams in the Olympic competition. It's important to be inside there and get the support of all the people who voted for you.
Secondly, being a member of the IOC is a good place for networking. Like if you want to solve a problem in any part of the world, you would already know somebody from there. Because, you see the members of the IOC are all over the world. And these are people who have a lot of influence.
Your thoughts on international basketball vs. amateur sport.
(Laughs). I think every citizen in the world is in some way some sort of an amateur sportsperson. Like when you are walking to the office or anything as simple and basic as that.
If you are talking about organized sport, it's stretching from the very amateur base to the very professional. That's something which is very positive.
If you see, sport about 20 years ago, it was based on volunteerism. That's how I started in sport. But it's no longer the case. The work I did in Italy when I started as table official as a volunteer calls for payment today. That's how sport has moved ahead.
Sport becoming professional has pushed the pursuit of excellence very far.
But then there are problems that come with that. Like doping for instance. You want to be ahead of the rest all the time. Success matters a lot in professional sport. So you think doping is one way of doing it. And that's wrong, taking away the credibility of the competition.
How do sport administrators overcome the problems of professional sport?
Administrators have to be sharper. We also need people to be more equipped with know-how and better qualified. It's like the athletes themselves. You want to be the best and therefore you should emulate the best.
Like a team goes out for exposure and training, sport administrators too should go out and learn from people who are doing a similar kind of job, but in a lot better way.
Sport officials have to be people of very high expertise.
Your thoughts on FIBA and basketball in general.
We are lucky basketball is a very good product, even international basketball. So you need to work a way to promote it better. The important thing here is that the process needs to be right. Once the process is right, 95% of the times you'll take the right decision. And on other occasions, you'll learn so much you'll do it a lot better than you did on the previous occasion.
Your thoughts on FIBA Asia in relation to other zones. Do you think the rate of progress in Asia is as good? Are there disappointments?
Asia has definitely grown. Today you have at least 10 teams competing for the Championship as against one three or four. That's a very good sign of development.
Also Asia has been organizing a lot of international events of late. Not only the FIBA Asia Championships, but also world events like the FIBA World Championship in Japan or the Beijing Olympics next year. And these events are being conducted in a very professional and organized manner.
But if you see the flip side, Asian teams are not very consistent in international performances. Like China has always been on top at the Asian level. But in international competition, they are yet to break into the top level. Whereas if you see the African nations, like Nigeria for instance in the last world championship came close to beating Germany and France. So you see African teams have suddenly shown faster progress than Asian teams.
We need to have India coming in a big for Asian basketball. India is a huge basketball potential.
Can you elaborate?
You see Asia is made up of the three parts. Traditionally, the East Asian nations have been stronghold of basketball. And they have remained strong.
Then we have the West Asian and gulf nations making rapid progress. Like you see here Lebanon are playing the final against Iran. That's happened because of an organized structure in their approach.
And then you have the central Asia. What do you have here? Mainly India.
That's the importance of India in Asian basketball. I don't understand why people play cricket in India. Why do we play three days, drink tea and not have a result. (Laughs).
We can instead play basketball.
I'll say it now and I'll say it again, India is very critical for Asian basketball.
Please assess Patrick Baumann as the FIBA Secretary General.
(Laughs). I won't do this. It's for others to do this. It's an amazing job. It's truly a demanding, but charming, profession. I'm enjoying it a lot.
Of course, I'd like it to be less political than what it is. But then that's how things are and you learn from them.
One thing I've learnt in this job is to get a lot of people to work for you by motivating them.
It's given me a great sense of responsibility towards all those who are involved in basketball.
The more important thing is FIBA should be a very responsible organization. I want people to respect FIBA as an international organization. But more importantly, I want FIBA to deserved that respect.