"I would like that following my visit here I could be certain that some of you may act as an official during the African Games." This is what Thierry Bonnamant, FINA expert from France, told the 32 participants on October 6-10, 2014 at the Alphonse-Massamba-Débat stadium in Brazzaville, Congo, where the first-ever FINA clinic was held.According to Jean Kimbémbé, representative of the ministry, this clinic is tackling two issues: the acquisition of new strategies related to the practice of swimming and the raising of officiating skills among local trainees.
Filling the gap
The aim is clear: Congo has currently no technical officials or judges who can officiate at major events. As host of the 11th All-African Games in September 2015, the country put the training of swimming officials on the top of the priority list.
As a result, they ensure the creation and consolidation of a local pool of expertise they can rely on and build on for the future. Besides, bringing officials from outside the country could prove a costly operation for the organising committee.
Thierry Bonnamant training participants in Brazzaville - photo credit: FECONAT
"We should be capable during this event [All-African Games] to rely on youngsters who could get active around the stadium without having to call in foreign experts," said Rachel Ngouabi, Féconat president.
During the five-day clinic, participants learned about the various roles of swimming officials, timekeeping rules, the configuration of a major swimming competition, antidoping procedures, swimwear approval, among other topics. A practical session for starts, turns and swimming technique was also held at a private pool.
All eyes on 2015
Jean Paul Ngaloua, secretary general of the Congolese National Olympic Committee, is confident about the progress being made to train officials: "We don't have a swimming pool yet. We're focusing on theoretical skills but by the time we reach the African Games, our local officials will be together with officials from other countries and we hope a FINA expert comes back to put them to practice."
The 32 participants proudly holding their certificate - photo credit: FECONAT
Brazzaville hosted the first edition of the Games in 1965. Swimming and diving are among the 34 disciplines on the competition programme.
Following the examination, where nine participants returned a faultless sheet, FINA expert Bonnamant said: "We started from a very low level, especially for trainees who have no swimming pool and judges who have no opportunity to judge at competitions."
Visit at the future pool of the 2015 African Games - photo credit: FECONAT