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NEWS FEATURE Surfing at the Olympics - for a better future By Tomas Rudich and John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Surfing is elected an Olympic sport just across the road from a surfing beach in Rio, and is the culmination of the work of surfing federation boss Fernando Aguerre.

Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Overcast skies did not deter surfers from riding the waves at Rio de Janeiro‘s Barra de Tijuca beach on the Wednesday when their sport joined the Olympics.

Less than 100 yards from the sprawling beach where the cool kids were enjoying their sport in wetsuits, 86 men and women in business attire elected surfing a part of the 2020 Games in Tokyo in a package deal along with baseball/softball, karate, sports climbing and skateboarding.

The vote by the Session of the International Olympic Committee followed a proposal from Tokyo organizers and is part of the Olympic Agenda 2020 which aims to reach out to youth in order to keep the Olympics relevant for future generations.

And shortly after another three surfers had walked past the Session hotel, the sports‘ governing body ISA president since 1994, Fernando Aguerre of Argentina, stepped outside celebrating.

"I have been surfing this wave for 22 years," he said, with a Hawaiian-style Lei garland around his neck, and reigning Champions League series winner Gabriel Medina of Brazil at his side.

"I am very happy that we are going to bring this special energy of surfing to the Olympics Just like snowboarding changed the face of the Winter Games, we hope to do the same at the Summer Games."

Medina was delighted and said "we owe a lot to Aguerre, we couldn‘t have done without him."

Aguerre also dwelt on the statement of coordination committee chief John Coates that surfing will also bring its lifestyle to the Games.

"It is not only going to be about surfing competition it is also the surfing culture, environmental issues, yoga, organic food, all the thing we know are good for us," he said.

"I hope it will be the beginning of a very gentle push for a better future."

It was not just the beachfront location that was perfectly fitting for the inclusion of surfing because it was here he went when no longer allowed to surf at home in Mar del Plata under the military leadership in the 1970s and later.

"For me Rio is a very special place. When I was 20 surfing was banned in Mar del Plata by a military quartermaster and I came to Rio to seek freedom," Aguerre told dpa before the vote.

Now residing in La Jolla, California, with his wife and triplets, the businessman Aguerre has managed to overcome the scepticism that existed both within their sport and the Olympic family.

Surfing at the Games seemed unreal for some time, but now the IOC is delighted at the prospect of having a visually attractive sport which is popular within the young generation, and brings together mankind with nature.

"Surfing today is one of the most popular sports in the world. I think that is already a justification for it to become Olympic" Abilio Fernandes, head of the Surfing Federation of Rio de Janeiro recently told dpa.

The ISA now has 99 member nations, the last to join being the Cook Islands in April. According to Aguerre, more than 35 million people surf in the world.

The IOC approval also fulfils the dream of Duke Kahanamoku, who is considered the inventor of modern surfing. The Hawaiian swimmer and actor - won three gold medals at the 1912 Stockholm Games and Antwerp 1920 - had tried in vain during his era to bring surfing to the Olympics.

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