Jean-Marie Dedecker: A Voice for Reform in Belgian Sports

Jean-Marie Dedecker: A Voice for Reform in Belgian Sports

During the press conference presenting the event, which will be organized “in an Olympic spirit” with the COIB, the 72-year-old mayor, former boss of Belgian judo, quickly spoke to us about the situation of sport in our country. and that of his favorite sport in particular.

Mr. Dedecker, you are associated with the organization of this event at COIB, an institution managed today by Jean-Michel Saive (president) and Cédric Van Branteghem (CEO). What does this inspire you?

”This is progress! Former athletes must lead the federations and the COIB. With Jean-Mi and Cédric, we have the right people in the right positions: they know the terrain, they know the athletes and can put themselves in their place, in terms of their motivation, their feelings, their needs, etc. . Its very important ! You know, I’ve been through five Olympics, I know how it works. In federations, it is sometimes old men who cannot stay at their wife’s house every day who occupy important positions. It does not go well !”

Jean-Marie Dedecker has a lot of affection for Jean-Michel Saive. ©DLE

The state of mind, too, has evolved in recent years at the top of Belgian sport.

“Yes that’s right. The mindset has changed, there is more ambition than before. For me, Belgium must win eleven medals this summer at the Paris Games. I have been saying it for a long time: there are eleven million of us; therefore, eleven medals are needed. This is the normal ratio, in my opinion. We still invest in sport, right? The athletes are professionals, paid by the government.”


Four Belgian judokas at the Games is not enough. There was a way to do better!

In judo, there are four qualified Belgians. Is this a normal number?

”No, that’s not enough. There was a way to do better! Unfortunately, over the last twenty years, the level has declined significantly. In my time, we had a whole team and we came back from each championship with medals. I wasn’t happy when we came back from the Euro with four medals, or when we didn’t have a gold medal, for example. You always have to raise the bar and we don’t do that anymore! We were sometimes saved by one or two medals which masked the reality.”

The municipality of Middelkerke and the COIB will jointly organize the Olympic Festival this summer. ©DLE


I quarreled with everyone but it was always in the athletes’ interest.

What do you advocate?

”Our entire system needs to be overhauled. We need to set up a judo school, which we had for twenty years but since the Sydney Olympics it has gone from bad to worse. Everyone trained together, there were quarrels between the Flemish and the Walloons but at least we trained together! And there was a leader… (smile) I quarreled with everyone but it was always in the interest of the athletes.”

What do you expect from our representatives at the Olympics?

”There is a great hope, it is Matthias Casse, who I am convinced will win. It’s not happy for him to have lost at the Worlds but maybe it’s not a bad thing. He had a little lesson, for which he paid dearly, and he will open his eyes. I experienced the same thing with Ulla (Werbrouck) in 1995 but she was so motivated to obtain the title then, in 1996… What an achievement! I see the same thing happening with Casse. Personally, I wouldn’t even have let him participate in the last tournament. The Euro, the Worlds and the Olympics in six months, that’s not healthy!”


Matthias is truly my star for the Games!

Let’s say he wins Olympic gold. Where would you place him among the best Belgian judokas in history?

”If he is Olympic champion, I put him at the top with Van de Walle, Vandecaveye, Werbrouck. Yes, he is at that level! But don’t ask me if I prefer my daughter, my sister or my father, it’s too difficult! (laughs)”

Quid de Jorre Verstraeten?

”I hope I’m wrong but its peak has passed, I think. Of course, there’s always a chance. Remember Marisabelle Lomba in 1996 in Atlanta: no one expected her! At the Olympics, something always happens, athletes who reveal themselves, unexpected medals that fall, so why not a surprise in judo? You just need to have a good day at the right time. But Matthias is really my star for the Games!”

2024-06-18 10:33:45
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