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The Olympic University. «SportBusiness International», №178

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The Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) - the worlds first-ever Olympic University - launches its first postgraduate sports course in 2013, the Master of Sport Administration (MSA). Director-general Professor Lev Belousov tells Owen Evans how he hopes the International Olympic Committee (IOC)s image will convince the best emerging sports managers to enrol on the course.

People travel all over the world to study the best sports management courses. Why would they choose the MSA at the RIOU?

We understand the market and we are really ready for the competition. From my point-ofview we have four competitive advantages which allow us to be optimistic. Firstly, as we are starting from scratch: we can be guided by our competitors and what they already have to offer. We have identified aspects in every competing programme and we found they each have their own strengths. We are looking to combine all those positives into the course we offer. Secondly, we are supported by the IOC and the Olympic Family.

They believe we will be successful and we have a really supportive group of founders including the Russian Ministry of Sport and the Russian Olympic Committee. Our university also receives private donations and this allows us to respond effectively to market needs. The third advantage from my point-of-view is that this is a programme that has been prepared by foreign and Russian specialists and directly benefits from Sochi hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. Our close relationship with the Sochi 2014 local organising committee means our MSA course is linked to Sochis preparations and will be a tangible part of the educational offering. Finally, we will have a fantastic campus which is being built using cutting-edge technology. It is just a three-minute walk from the Black Sea and only 40 minutes by train to the mountains.

Has demand for sport management courses in Russia changed over the past 20 years?

Starting from the so-called democratic revolution in Russia, the demand for sport management courses in Russia has been on an upward trajectory. At the end of the last century Russian society and the economy were in transition. Since, Russia has shown stability during the global economic recession and has won the right to host the 2014 Olympic Games and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and because of this we have seen a tremendous amount of interest in sport management courses.

What are the fundamental differences between the MSA and the ExMSA (RIOUs course for top managers)?

Both courses are high-quality educational offerings. The main difference is the MSA is designed mainly for young specialists who have been working in the sports industry for a few years. The executive senior programme has been put together for senior managers who have considerable experience and now they want to move to a higher level of proficiency.

Do you think academic achievement benefits aspiring sports managers more than industry experience?

In my mind, experience and academia are not opposite things. For example, take two of the worlds best football managers - Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho. The Russian International Olympic University (RIOU) - the worlds fi rst-ever Olympic University - launches its fi rst postgraduate sports course in 2013, the Master of Sport Administration (MSA). Director-general Professor Lev Belousov tells Owen Evans how he hopes the International Olympic Committee (IOC)s image will convince the best emerging sports managers to enrol on the course. Guardiola has considerable experience as a league player and he is successful in his work. Mourinho wasnt a professional footballer but he has brilliant theoretical knowledge. Both are tasked with making their club the best in the world. Both have league titles to their name. How do you decide who is better? No doubt they both are brilliant specialists. Experience is vital but knowledge from my point-of-view is very important.
What skills do renowned sportsmen bring to sport management roles?

There are examples of great former athletes going on to become successful managers, such as Lord Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka. What they undoubtedly bring is passion and drive. That commitment can be a fantastic strength to an organisation. However, I would say former athletes do not have a monopoly on having passion for sport or the knowledge on what is needed to succeed. The world of sport requires people who are fluent in finance, marketing, branding, event management and strategy among other aspects. Sometimes passion by itself is not enough. Thats why we are in a good place to target those people with passion and arm them with new skills.

What benefits are there in your institution placing such a great emphasis on Olympic enlightenment?

While we have the greatest respect for the other courses around the world that offer education in the business of sport, we are probably the only institution that can offer all of those fantastic modules and learning while infusing it with an Olympic experience. There is nothing else like this course [the MSA] in the world. We will have case studies and information coming directly from the Olympic Movement. No other institution can offer that. So if anyone in the world wants to learn to become the best sports executive, surely they would want to learn from the biggest and best sports event in the world?

What are your future plans for the RIOU?

We have great plans. Our long-term plan is to create a generation of top-class Russian sports managers. But the primary task now for us is to train our students for the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. Secondly, the university is a key component of Sochi 2014s Olympic legacy. We are committed to providing an environment fit for the sports managers of tomorrow, according to the IOCs specifications. As well as the forthcoming Winter Games, Russia is set to host a number of major events in different sports such as football, ice hockey, swimming and Formula One. We want our alumni adding value to all these events.

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