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“If my mind can conceive it, if my heart can believe it--then I can achieve it.”

Muhammad Ali

Olympic Torch

Dear sports lover,

The elections for the new president of the BOIC will take place on September 10th. I have submitted my candidacy a few weeks ago. 

I have spoken with many people in the world of elite sports over recent weeks. It has been great to come across  so much knowledge, experience and professionalism, and has helped me to work out goals and plans that I would like to achieve and implement together with the BOIC if I am elected president. 


What is my goal?

  •  I want us to evolve together step by step into an elite sports country with the ultimate goal of winning one medal at the Olympic Games for every million inhabitants. This equates to 11 medals for Belgium.

  • Belgium’s elite sports performance indexes have risen sharply in recent years thanks to the professional work done by many people. We need to continue or even accelerate this progress.

  • I will place the athletes central and support them to achieve their Olympic dreams. 

  • I will respect and promote the Olympic values.


How are we going to achieve this? 

  • Collaboration and communication: Athletes, coaches, federations and communities already work very professional in many places, but often face the same challenges. The BOIC must support communication and collaboration between all these parties. The BOIC is also best placed to help share with other federations, sports and athletes all the know-how about the successes we’ve already achieved. This requires a constant effort and constructive attitude from all of us. 

  •  More elite sports projects: We have seen a number of successful sports projects achieved at the previous Olympic Games. We need to continue these, but we also need to set up more: in major sports and in team sports, but also in smaller sports. We must not make the mistake of losing our focus, however. That’s why we don't just give a little to everyone, but instead support well-founded projects with a high chance of success -- read: winning medals or promoting Olympics values.

  • More money: We can of course only do the latter if we have the necessary funds. Over the next 5 years, I want to increase the annual funding for such projects by €10 million, not by taking money away from other organisations (communities, federations or clubs), but by increasing the total pot for elite sports. In addition, much more money must be spent on top sport within the BOIC.

  • ROI to companies: I want to get this extra money mainly from the business world, not through traditional sponsorship but by looking at how we can offer companies a real return on their investment. This is a challenge, but I see possibilities.

  • Efficient use of what we have: We have top experts in our country, such as elite coaches, elite sports managers and elite former athletes. We are a small country, so we need to ensure that we continue to take advantage of their knowledge and experience. We cannot afford to ignore talent. 

  • Elite sports culture: We can have a lot of great projects, but we won’t be successful if we don’t have the right mentality. I have already seen real elite sports mentality in various places, but we need to expand it. If we expect elite performances from our athletes, we also need to have an elite sports mentality ourselves.

  • Good governance: Lots of federations have made great strides in terms of good governance. I want to support this standard further and the BOIC must set a good example in this area.

  • Paralympic Team: I want good cooperation with the Paralympic Team Belgium, because we have the same challenges and can make each other stronger.

  • Connections with athletes and federations: Finally, I do not want to sit in an ivory tower, nor do I have any personal ambitions for the IOC. I want to bring the BOIC closer to the sportspeople and federations. I will go to various sports competitions and training sessions to encourage the athletes. I also want to organise meetings with and between federations to make progress together. 


Finally, am I the right person to achieve these goals and implement these plans? In my life so far I have had three main challenges, which I would like to highlight.

  • Sports: After injuring my foot while doing gymnastics, I started judo when I was 17. I wasn’t the most talented judoka, but I won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, thanks to lots of determined and dedicated training. In Sydney, I just missed out on bronze. I have won and lost, qualified for the Games, and also just missed out. I’ve had serious injuries, and had to watch my weight very carefully. Being able to compete at the top level was fantastic, but it was also a struggle sometimes. I have experienced this first-hand.

  • Studies: I have obtained a Master's degree in civil engineering and computer science during my sports career.

  • Company: In 2014, my partner Eric Lafortune and I founded the software company Guardsquare. As CEO, I was responsible for managing the company. We grew quickly, with some of the world’s largest companies as clients. We built a strong team, sold our software in over 75 countries, and were profitable. Slowly but surely we became the global leader in our technology. In 2018, we were the fastest-growing technology company in Belgium with a growth of 4700% in three years. In 2019, I was ICT Woman of the Year. At the end of 2019, I passed the helm to my colleagues. I hope that I can bring the ambition, drive and enthusiasm of a start-up/scale-up to the BOIC.

I think I’m the right person to be chairperson of the BOIC, because the BOIC has enormous challenges in the coming years. I have won a medal the Olympic Games and competed passionately in elite sports until I was 36. I was member of a successful judo team. I have also proven that I can build an organisation that is larger than the BOIC from nothing in a short space of time, and lead it successfully. I have been a member of the top sport committee in judo for a year now. This has reconnected me with the current climate in elite sports. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a hard worker, and I will do this job full time. 

Finally, gender equality has been a hot item in recent days. It’s time for more women to be given leading roles in sport. The IOC and BOIC have already undertaken actions to this end. Now is the time to show the world that we take this seriously.

My previous experiences will definitely help me as the new president, but we will also have a lot of challenges. I will need your help and feedback, but I believe that together we can do it and I will give it my all. Thank you very much for your support!

Sporting regards,

Heidi Rakels

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Sunrise on Matterhorn from Riffelsee

"Will it be easy? Nope.
Worth it? Absolutely!"

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