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Published: 22 october 2012 08:33

President of Lithuanian National Olympic Committee Daina Gudzinevičiūtė: The committee is not a candy factory

Daina Gudzinevičiūtė
BFL/T.Lukšio nuotr. / Daina Gudzinevičiūtė

Lithuanian sports community will have to change a small habit – instead of addressing the head of the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee (LTOK) with the usual “Mister President,” they will be using “Madam President.”

For the four upcoming years, until Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, the committee will be headed by 46-year-old Daina Gudzinevičiūtė, Sydney Olympic champion shooter.

On 12 October, she was elected the new president of the committee, beating two-time Olympic champion, 40-year-old discus thrower Virgilijus Alekna. It was a close call – 57 delegates voted for Ms Gudzinevičiūtė, while 43 supported Mr Alekna.

Right after the election, Gudzinevičiūtė officially announced the end of her sports career, so she could take on the duties previously held by Artūras Poviliūnas, 61, who had been heading the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee since its re-establishment in 1988. Poviliūnas will not be quitting the Olympic movement entirely – he was named honorary president of the committee.

Gudzinevičiūtė spent her first weeks as president-elect warming up to her new duties and supervising actual repairs in the committee headquarters.

“There is much work. Some of it sounds quite silly. Former president Poviliūnas is packing his stuff in the office, taking pictures off the walls. You can still see nails and contours of picture frames. That is something that must be taken care of, too. Poviliūnas is leaving on Monday, so from then on I'll have to manage on my own,” Gudzinevičiūtė told 15min.

- In the run-up to the election, your opponents would label you as a protege of the old sports nomenclature. What will you do to get rid of the label?

- I cannot be responsible for someone else's inventions or reproaches. Those who want to call me part of the nomenclature should look up the word in a dictionary – I am not a name of a product nor a list of some sort...

I will do my job and try to prove that all this talk is nonsense. One thing I can say about this label – if that's the only thing they could come up with, it means there was nothing they could find on me (laughs).

- A new government is usually given 100 days to warm up while the media refrains from overt criticism. How many days would you like the new Lithuanian National Olympic Committee leadership to be immune from criticism?

- I think we are under scrutiny of a probable opposition from the first minute after the election and no one is going to grant us 100 days. Therefore we've already started work: there is the controversial issue of the Lithuanian Olympic Fund to settle; also aspects of our involvement in the Department of Physical Education and Sports activities; reforms of the committee directorate. I am sure that if we don't get going today, we will be scolded tomorrow.

- In one of your interviews, you've said that you're tired of living in four-year cycles, from one Olympic Games to the next. But now you've destined yourself to that very fate – since LTOK president elections take place every four years.

- Then it's something I will never escape (laughs). Now seriously, when I was an Olympic athlete, my primary goal was to get ready for the main start – the Games. LTOK duties have much more shades – the Olympic Games are but the final point of a big task, whereas day-to-day processes acquire central importance. We are already thinking about Rio de Janeiro 2016 and I've got a hunch that the four years will fly in an instant. There are piles of work to do...

- Over the last five years, the situation of Lithuanian sports has become rather unbalanced – on the one hand, there is the fit and all-powerful basketball and on the other, impoverished and deprived other sports. Will you attempt to tackle the problem?

- Sporting celebrations and victories of the past several years have highlighted this opposition between basketball and all other sports. One must admit that it is basketball that manages to profit most from various championships, olympics, tournaments. Therefore it hurts when the Prime Minister himself says that we have built so many arenas for EuroBasket 2011 but we cannot give that kind of money to other events. Even to the unfinished Olympic Sports Centre in Druskininkai.

We have indeed built all those arenas – and what of it? They are multifunctional – suitable for basketball games as well as other entertainment events. I am not saying we shouldn't have built them, but they have only been serving as entertainment venues lately. Municipal authorities pay big money to maintain these arenas, while funds for developing other sports remain only in plans.

It is not a bad thing that basketball is so revered in this country. It is bad that it overshadows all other sports. And that is where we should start – try and lift the overshadowed sports closer to basketball. London Games have shown that it is possible – athletes of individual sports fared much better than our basketball team.

- What could make Daina Gudzinevičiūtė resign from the post of LTOK president?

- If my entire team declared no confidence in Gudzinevičiūtė. I mean the team in both wider and narrower sense – the LTOK Executive Committee as well as the General Assembly. If I were to receive a vote of no-confidence, I would definitely not cling to the post pretending that I'm the only one in the right while everyone else is wrong.

- Is it worth talking about and revealing all truth about the recent LTOK president election?

- I am not so keen on dwelling on this recent story of rumors and slander, since these last few weeks have seriously smeared the image of the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee. Its good name has been stained, so it is not time to start throwing dirt back to the other side of the barricades. We should rather work and prove that this organization deserves nothing but respect.

- One of the key reproaches voiced against the LTOK has been generous salaries for the directorate and the former president Poviliūnas. What is your pay?

- I can guarantee that my salary will not be outrageous. The amount will be set by LTOK Executive Committee.

- People were only half joking when they said that one of the factors to contribute to Gudzinevičiūtė's victory was that she had a small family, only a husband. Meanwhile your rival, Virgilijus Alekna, has a wife and three kids. People apparently calculated how much it would cost to make Gudzinevičiūtė's family happy as opposed to Alekna's...

- I thought this was my weakness – and here it turns out to be an advantage (laughs). What can I reply to such speculations? The Lithuanian National Olympic Committee is not a candy factory – you cannot stuff your pockets with candy and sneak through the guard. The LTOK is regularly inspected by auditors and tax authorities – there are no thieves here.

- You are to select a team for the LTOK Directorate. Are you thinking of offering a post to your former rival Alekna?

- He was invited to join the team even before the election. He refused. But it's not true that we are enemies – we get on the same way we used to. If he can see himself in the LTOK – doors of committee's headquarters and my office will always be open. He can come and we'll talk.

***

Virgilijus Alekna, who is also retiring from sports, is not unemployed after losing to Gudzinevičiūtė in his bid to head the LTOK. Since 2011, he has been serving as sports advisor to the Minister of Interior Affairs. However, after this year's general elections ministry leadership might change.

“I do not think that the recent parliamentary elections and a new Cabinet will have a direct bearing on my job. My duties do not depend on political trust, so there is no difference which party heads the Ministry of Interior or who is Minister. I hope to continue as sports advisor. However, if the new Minister does not need my services, I will go,” Alekna says.

LTOK leadership

Besides Daina Gudzinevičiūtė, the newly-elected team to head the Lithuanian National Olympic Committee are: Romualdas Bakutis, Algis Vasiliauskas, and Arvydas Juozaitis as vice-presidents; Valentinas Paketūras as secretary-general; Rimgaudas Balaiša as treasurer.

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