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Date: 5/18/2012

Interview with newly elected ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah (Kuwait), who started his sports official career as President of the Asian Handball Federation

It was a historic day for handball, for Asian sports in general and for Kuwait, when Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah was elected new President of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC, 205 member NOC’s) end of April in Moscow. The career of the 49 year old Kuwaiti, who is part of the international sports family since more than 20 years, has reached new heights.

He had started in different sports, practicing Equestrian, handball and Yachting, but also was early involved in the world of handball, as Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah was elected President of the Asian Handball Federation in 1991 – and since then the former minister of national security, information and energy of Kuwait and chairman of the OPEC organization took a huge number of high level positions, crowned now by his presidency of ANOC.

Since 1992, 49 year old Sheikh is member of the International Olympic Committee and since 1991 he is the head of Asian Olympic Council (AOC).

His whole life is imprinted and inspired by sports, an interest which had been the heritage of his father. His first high ranked governance position was in 1990, when Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah became President of the Kuwait Olympic Committee - a position he held until 2001.

Aside handball Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah once was the coach of the Kuwaiti national team in football, founder of several federations like the Pan-Arab Rowing Federation, the Pan-Arab Yachting Federation and the Pan-Arab Shooting Federation. In today’s rare spare time his interests are also contributed to sports like Equestrian, Shooting and Falconing. Aside he is writing Arabic poetry and newspaper columns on social issues.

The five times Honorary Ph. D. in different studies focused on the social welfare as a member of numerous charity institutions inside and outside Kuwait. For the IOC he focuses on social programs especially as a Member of the Olympic Solidarity Commission.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah formed and represented the Kuwaiti sports on international turf for decades being the head of the Kuwaiti delegations at four Olympic Games (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004) and six Asian Games (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010). The list of official sports positions besides the mentioned positions is long: From 1998 to 2003 Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah was Chairman of Afro-Asian Games Council, since 1992 he is Member of the IHF Council, from 1990 to 2004 he was and since January 2009 he is President of Kuwait Football Association, since 1999 he is Senior Vice President of the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation, besides Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah is Honorary President of several Kuwait, Arab and Asian Clubs.

Having reached one of the most important, prestigious and powerful positions in the world of sports governance by leading the ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah has clear objectives and goals. In this interview he points out his ideas with the governing parties and stakeholders in the world of sports, like the IOC members, International Federations, NOC and governments – but talks about his handball roots and experience.

As president of AHF and vice president of IHF; how did you develop handball in Asia?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: From the moment of my presidency of AHF we had a plan for developing and promoting handball in Asia. We focused on establishing National Federations in all Asian countries which we eventually accomplished. We backed our member Federations to organize international events like World Championships as well as continental and regional events which served significantly in promoting handball in Asia. We have special projects for emerging national federations which are helping in building up a sustainable base for developing and promoting handball. The AHF is working and collaborating with the IHF to implement all the development projects.

How many national federations are now affiliated to IHF compared to the year of your election as AHF president?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: I started with 25 National Federations. I’m really glad to announce that all 45 Asian Countries which have National Olympic Committees are now affiliated to the AHF and IHF. The AHF started a special program for the new national federations added to the plans of the IHF to assist them to develop handball.

How would you envisage handball now comparing to handball in previous times?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: Handball is my favorite sport. Handball now is faster, stronger and more attractive thanks to the amendments and changing of the rules. Records achieved in number of spectators and media audience results by the development during the last ten years.

As you were recently elected as ANOC president what is your prospective for the future of ANOC?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: I’m not new in the field as you know I was the Vice President of ANOC and President of OCA since a long period. Due to these positions and my different relationships to sport leaders worldwide, I built up my own prospective for the future of ANOC. All governments in the world look for transparency, good governance and improving the level of sport. Today we are facing different issues and irregularities in different countries, and I’m sure those shortcomings in our sports family can’t be resolved without trust and mutual respect. But first we have to evaluate the work which has been done so far to analyze what is ahead exactly.

From your experience as OCA president: Each NOC may have different problems which encounter their progress. Do you have different plans and solutions for different NOC’s?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: In a first step I had sent a letter to all 205 member NOCs of ANOC asking for their input to help reshape the vision and objectives of our association. In my opinion one of the biggest priorities under my presidency will be a vision to help the underdeveloped countries' National Olympic Committees. So you can say that we have different solutions and different objectives under the umbrella of ANOC.

What is your vision for ANOC?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: The Executive Council and all members of ANOC must show unity, solidarity and cooperation, and work together with the National Olympic Committees and with the International Federations. Under the Umbrella of the IOC we will serve the Olympic Movement according to the Olympic Charter and we are open and transparent in welcoming any suggestions, recommendations and proposals on our way forward. Whatever the majority decides will be followed.

You mentioned all stakeholders of the Olympic Movement. How do you describe the relationship of the NOC’s and the International Federation – and how could both cooperate in a perfect manner?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: Ex officio and basing on my positions in organizations like ANOC, OCA and IOC I have contacts with all the International Federations and have background on their problems. I would like to point out that we are one family under the leadership and the umbrella of the IOC. I respect all my colleagues heading the International Federations and respect their role in promoting their respective sport. The main resource for all of us is the athlete. Therefore we have to collaborate to preserve this resource. The athlete is competing in different events which are organized by National Federations, National Olympic Committees, International Federation or the IOC. To create harmony and balance among the athletes and sports we need periodical meetings to analyze the situation from both points of view, ANOC and International Federations. All problems which affect further progress should be on the table to find out solutions on a mutual base. In my opinion unity is the key for any triumph therefore I call to expel and avoid self interest and focus on general interest which serve sport worldwide.

Right after your election as ANOC President in Moscow, new Russian President Vladimir Putin praised you by saying “He is a statesman who used his diplomatic experience to cleverly address the Olympic committee-related issues and who used sports to promote dialogue among all countries.” Had you been seized after this statement?

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah: I would like first to convey my appreciation for his kind words. Through my past not only political but sportive governance experience I seek to build up dialogue among our National Olympic Committees and to have harmony among all the organizations and stakeholders concerned i.e. IOC, NOCs and International Federations.