A few hours before the first medal session of the 2014 IWF World Championships in Almaty, Dr. Tamas Ajan spoke of a bright future for the sport and praised the impressive efforts of the host nation, Kazakhstan, in promoting and developing weightlifting.
Dr Ajan, President of the IWF since 2000, highlighted two key developments that will help to change the image of weightlifting, a sport that is growing rapidly worldwide.
First, he mentioned the new logo that was accepted by the IWF Congress on Friday. The new look will help the IWF to promote its brand and to enhance its corporate identity.
Next he praised the film, Lift the World, which was shown for the first time to an audience of athletes, coaches, officials and journalists on Friday night in Almaty. “This could be a historical moment for us,” said Dr. Ajan. “This film can encourage more and more young people to take up weightlifting.”
The uplifting 50-minute film documents the hopes, aspirations and achievements of weightlifters of all ages across four continents. It features 10-year-olds in Mexico, teenagers from Cameroon and Tunisia, and revealing at-home interviews with World and Olympic champions Dmitry Klokov and Lu Xiaojun, in Russia and China.
The film was funded by the IWF to promote the sport and will be shown on television stations around the world before, eventually, being made freely available on YouTube. Lift the World was rapturously received by a number of Olympic medallists, among them the 3 times Olympic Champion Pyrros Dimas, from Greece.
The various comments from the audience included, “A magnificent production. If this doesn’t sell weightlifting, nothing will. There are movies with soul and movies without soul. This movie has soul.”
Another important change agreed by the forward-thinking IWF was the use of video technology to help judges with their decision-making. The move was promoted by Sam Coffa, vice-president of the IWF and chairman of the technical committee.
“There has been too much human error, and I have seen gold medals awarded to the wrong athlete,” said Mr. Coffa. The judges will have three cameras positioned to give them pictures from their own line of sight, and the technology will be introduced in 2015.
As for Kazakhstan, Dr. Ajan was very impressed with their promotion of weightlifting. “The Federation has a fantastic development programme, with more and more weightlifting centers around the country,” he said. “They are making weightlifting academies with a special programme to involve more and more youngsters.
“It’s unbelievable how Kazakhstan is investing so much money in sport to give a base to a healthy generation of young people.”
The biggest star at the 2014 World Championships is likely to be Ilya Ilyin, the first Kazakh to win two Olympic gold medals. He won the 94kg gold in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and has moved up to the 105kg class. He aims to win gold this week and make it three Olympic titles in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Kazakhstan has focused much of its sporting development on a group of sports at which they excel – weightlifting, boxing, judo, wrestling and taekwondo. Kazakhstan hosted the boxing world championships last year, will have the judo world championships next year, and for the next eight days is hosting the IWF World Championships in Almaty.