Most of you have followed the events as they unfolded in the recent Norwegian Inaugural through ISA Communications Chairman Stan McCormack and his blog. It was a wonderful experience and my 4th Inaugural and if you have never participated in one, you are missing the experience of a lifetime. Each and every member of this ISA Delegation, representing 4 member nations, reflected highly upon themselves, their respective nations and our fine organization and I for one am especially proud of each and every one of them.
Immediatly following Norway, my presence was formally requested in Russia by Mr. Igor Ekert. Original plans were to meet Igor and his team in Moscow and attend high level meetings there with city and government officials however the location was changed to Sochi, the 2014 Olympic City where everyone seemed to be headed. I was met at the airport by Igor and lodged at the summer residence of a federal deputy and staunch supporter of Igor and his shuffleboard program. During these 6 days we attended meetings with para-olympic, city, state and government officials representing the physically challenged, university students and senior citizens. I also presided as guest of honor to a shuffleboard tournament of wheelchair bound athletes. Quite a bit of TV and media coverage took place, highlighting my official visit.
I must admit, I was skeptical at first to accept this invitation to Russia by Igor due to his long bouts of silence and communications difficulty but I soon realized the important role the ISA and I were about to assume. While most of us think Mr. Ekert has been taking life easy and just playing shuffleboard we could not be farther from the truth. He has officially formed and registered the Russian Shuffleboard Association and Russian Shuffleboard Federation in the legal system and also the i-net domains. He purchased 5 courts from Germany last year and has donated each one of them to special institutions and sets up events at each location. While this has been attracting media and player attention more importantly it has attracted state and federal officialls who are eager to support him. It's not my role as ISA President to get into court and equipment purchases rather it's to offer direct support and advice to our member and new potential member nations. However, there are those willing to judge a nation and it's leader's progress in shuffleboard by amounts of equipment purchased or not. What I witnessed in these meetings regarding allocating funding for the purchase of shuffleboard equipment in various agencies in the near future opened my eyes and ears to what Igor had been preaching all along. In his own words, "Mr President, I am not selling shoes, for 5 years I've been selling "walking" and soon everyone will need shoes for the walking. Selling a few courts to nations doesn't make progress it only makes little profits and only spreads shuffleboard to a little number of people."
As your President, I officially recognize and will totally support Russian Shuffleboard Association President Igor Ekert and it truly is in the best interest of the entire ISA to do so. I have extended a formal invitation and expect to see and meet President Ekert and his Russian Delegation at the 32nd ISA World Championship where they will compete and formally request membership in the ISA.
Prof. Michael Robert Zellner