Having headed the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) since its inception in 2007, President Marco Scolaris was recently re-elected for his fourth four-year term – 2021 to 2025 – that will see him preside over the sport’s Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 and its sophomore appearance at Paris 2024.

The 62-year-old Italian recently sat down with American journalist John Burgman to discuss his first 14 years in charge of the organisation and his vision for the years ahead, in addition to the reasoning behind the combined Speed, Boulder and Lead competition for Tokyo 2020, and much more.

Asked about the term “new horizons” that is mentioned a number of times in the IFSC Annual Report 2020, Scolaris says it referred to being flexible as an organisation and willing to make changes to ensure the continued development of Sport Climbing worldwide.

“The new horizon means also that we need to review the structure of the IFSC,” Scolaris says. “When we created the structure that exists today—it was created in 2008 and then effective in 2009. It’s old. It’s old because it was created in a completely different scenario without the Olympics and maybe too optimistic regarding the growth of the continents. So, we will review it this year, hopefully for next year. We need to have a structure that can face the challenges of today.”

Under Scolaris’ leadership, the IFSC has grown rapidly over the last decade and a half, culminating in the sport’s Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer. Always one to think ahead, Scolaris envisioned that the Federation would enter a new era post-Tokyo 2020, one in which the IFSC will take a more proactive role in the development and promotion of Sport Climbing across the globe. As a result, the IFSC worked hard over the last few years to set out its vision, mission and key objectives in the Strategic Plan 2020-2028.

The roadmap for the future of Sport Climbing aims to showcase and develop the sport, strengthen membership and governance, increase IFSC brand awareness, and promote Sport Climbing globally – all goals that show just how much the Federation has grown over the years.

Indeed, these are heady times for the IFSC and Sport Climbing compared to the earliest days of the organisation.

“I had clear in mind that we wanted to grow the sport and to move in the direction of the Olympic Games, but [I was] uncertain we were really ready,” Scolaris says of the nascent IFSC. “We were just out of our mother federation, we were on our own, we needed to start again the process of getting IOC recognition, etc. But, like a child who grows and then becomes an adult and leaves the parents’ home, there is some uncertainty, there is some fear, but you feel proud that you are on your own. And that was my feeling at that moment.

“Of course, it was also difficult to foresee how we could achieve the goals because our resources were limited; we had very little money, our annual budget was less than 200,000 euros. And then we started building relationships, and that moment we had to create a credible calendar, a credible sport, and then to present the sport to the media and to the external world.”

Fast forward to 2021, where even in a pandemic year the IFSC managed to post 2.4 million euros in operating revenue in 2020. With a new mandate and the Olympic Games now only days away, the future for Sport Climbing looks brighter than ever, even though Scolaris remains forever wary of the inevitable challenges that await the organisation.

“This is the beauty of life—we are surprised each and every day,” he says. “There is always something new.”

For the full interview, click here.

210720 IFSC News IFSC President envisages new horizons for Sport Climbing IFSC President Marco Scolaris at the IFSC Headquarters in Torino, Italy
Photo: Giorgio Perottino/IFSC

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