Fencing is one of the oldest Olympic Sports but last year the Swiss-Based International federation FIE marked its centenary. The 101 year reflects on the traditions it holds dear, while working out improvements it could bring in across the board.
The spread of medals in 2012 Games in London, with 13 countries winning at least a single bronze across six individual and four team events, is a validation of the FIE’s efforts to internationalize the sport. Frédéric Pietruszka reports « We now have 149 federationsin the FIE » with seven additional countries from the Africa continent that joined FIE the last five years. This together with the fact that in certain weapons, there are more teams in the pan-American or Asian federation than in Europe, shows that Fencing is growing in the other continents, not just in Europe.
The big priority for Fencing’s international leadership team, as the drop curtain begins to come down on 28th November 2014, lies in the successful launch of a revamped Grand Prix Series. Holding nine events in nine « iconic places », spread evenly and in regular timeslots across a season that lasts from November to June, is a joined-up attempt to creat a clearer marketing narrative to a sport whose technicalities are sometimes off-putting to the uninitiated. Starting with a foil competition in Turin, Italy, the Grand Prix Series moves to an epée competition in Doha, Qatar in early December, then a sabre competition in New Work, USA, before Christmas. All the fencing disciplines are then reotated in similar fashion again with March events in Havana, Cuba, Hungarian capital Budapest and Seoul, South Korean, before a final stretch in May takes in Grands Prix in Shanghai, China, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Moscow, Russia.
For the first time, Eurosport will broadcast highlights per Grand Prix with the additional media coverage for the World Championship through the whole year. Host broadcaster agreements have been signed in each territory with the likes of Globo in Brazil and CCTV in China. Pietruszka says « I think we need to remain strong in our strong markets but we’re looking at opportunities in other continents too. In South America, the selection of Rio was an obvious one as the FIE looks to build in Brazil ahead of the next Olympic Games in 2016.