Abysmal Autocrats

I have no idea whether the title of this story will be approved by the Swimwatch editor. I hope so. [Slightly altered. Ed.] Sometimes exclamations, verging on profanity, are the only appropriate response. I watched an interview with Barrack Obama this week. In it he admitted to occasionally having a good cuss to himself. It cleared his mind, restored his sanity, gave him the space to move on.

This week I was prompted to use the Obama method. You see a week ago Eyad and I had a very good meeting with the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC). We were there to discuss what Eyad was required to swim in order to have his name put forward to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to be part of their world refugee programme. The meeting was chaired by NZOC boss Kereyn Smith. I like Smith. She gives me the impression of being tough and straight. It is easy to deal with people like that, people whose word is their bond. I’m not so sure about the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) representatives in the room, Steve Johns and Gary Francis.

In front of Smith they were all sweetness and light, so bloody reasonable, so obsequious I felt like being sick. I popped a Prozac and resisted the urge, choosing instead to make progress on Eyad’s case for as long as Smith had the clowns under control. Eventually we agreed a good deal. Eyad knows what he has to do. SNZ knows the rules and Smith was there as a witness and referee. It had taken a while but we were, in modern parlance, moving forward all on the same page.

The first opportunity for Eyad to meet the approved conditions comes this week at the New Zealand Open Championships. The first opportunity for SNZ to prove that their good behaviour was a temporary respite in a sea of pettiness was this week at the New Zealand Open Championships. And sure enough they reverted to type.

To be fair Gary Francis did his best to continue the meeting’s good vibrations, We had a long chat on the pool deck last weekend. Right from the beginning of his employment with SNZ I have said Gary’s contribution was going to depend on whether he was strong enough to change SNZ or whether the suffocating ignorance of SNZ was going to change him.  I think Gary knows what’s right. The problem is he is not strong enough to do it.

And yesterday there was a perfect example. The club I belong to only had one coach’s pass for pool deck access to the New Zealand Championships which obviously the main club coach was using. Even if he is not at the pool the rules, I am told, do not allow me to use his pass. But fear not, in the spirit of our NZOC meeting of helping a refugee as much as we can I asked Gary if I could have a pass to be on pool deck for 120 seconds while Eyad swam a couple of 50s and a 100.

Here is Gary’s reply.

Gary Francis <gary@swimming.org.nz>To:David Wright

‎17‎ ‎Jun at ‎12‎:‎21‎ ‎PM

Hi David

Leave it with me, I’ll try and get one sorted.



All good so far. In my view that is Gary Francis doing what he knows is right but a bit scared that because it’s David Wright asking he’d better check with Count Dracula first. A few hours later Gary got his orders. Kereyn Smith was at an IOC meeting in London. Normal service was restored. And this email popped into my In-Box,

Gary Francis <gary@swimming.org.nz>To:David Wright

‎18‎ ‎Jun at ‎8‎:‎10‎ ‎AM

Hi David

I’m sorry but I have not been able to secure you an accreditation.

The Events Team will not issue any more passes for the meet.



SNZ wonder why I get so mad that I call them racist and anti-refugee. Well it’s because of this sort of rubbish. That lot are no more there to help Eyad or any swimmer than fly to the moon. The minute Kereyn Smith gets on an aeroplane to London, they revert to type. Screw Eyad, screw David Wright, screw a dozen swimmers on their way to a world championships, screw them all but make sure the members pay the inhabitants of Antares Place.

Oh, I know their excuse will be that if they handout one pass they will be in the gun for a hundred others. But that is rubbish. We are talking about a refugee here. We are talking about minutes of watching time. We are talking about helping someone whose home town in Syria, Aleppo, was bombed into a piles of blood stained rubble by the Americans, the Russians and their own government. We are talking about a man who was denied entry into public swimming poos because of his nationality. We are talking about a swimmer who never had a coach because of his nationality.

But most important of all WE ARE TALKING ABOUT A REFUGEE WHO IS BEING TREATED WITH CONTEMPT BY SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND. SNZ may wonder why I have called them racist in the past. I’ve done it because that is what this sort of behaviour deserves.

PS – I have little interest in SNZ’s B-Grade championships. But I do want to help a guy who deserves our help. And when arrogance and obstructiveness stops me doing that – then I have to cuss a bit.

PPS – I’ve been to the pool this afternoon to check on Eyad’s training.  Amazingly, I learned something new.  For the rest of the week my Club has no swimmers involved in the Championships EXCEPT EYAD!  So the Club Coach doesn’t need his pass. But he can’t give it to me because of SNZ’s ridiculous rules.  Eyad has to swim with no assistance from anyone.  Way to help a refugee you guys.  Good one SNZ. I hope you are proud of yourselves.  It would seem the lunatics are running the asylum.

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