Zlatko Mateša, president of the Croatian Olympic Committee : Croatia ready for the Paris Summer Olympics

I am extremely proud of each of our athletes, achieving the Olympic standard is no small feat, and on this occasion I congratulate all of them, says Zlatko Mateša, president of the Croatian Olympic Committee, for Diplomacy&Commerce. Given its size, Croatia has excellent results and always ranks high in the statistics of Olympic medals won kept by the International Olympic Committee, adds Mateša.


Zlatko Matesa, foto Saša Ćetković 
  1. The XXXIII Summer Olympics in Paris will be held from July 26 to August 11, 2024, in the French capital, which will host the Olympics for the third time after 1900 and 1924. Approximately 10,500 athletes from around 200 countries worldwide will be competing in 32 sports. How many Croatian athletes have secured their place in Paris and in which sports/disciplines?

At this moment, 57 athletes have secured their place in Paris. However, our sports delegation is not yet complete, as we are still awaiting qualifications, for example, in tennis, judo, and basketball. Currently qualified athletes come from individual sports such as boxing and swimming, and we also have representatives in athletics, specifically in marathon and technical disciplines. We are pleased with the already secured quotas in team sports such as water polo and handball. If basketball were to qualify, our delegation would consist of around 90 athletes.


2. Besides Paris and its suburbs, sporting events will also be hosted by other cities and destinations such as Lille, where handball will take place; Marseille, hosting sailing; and Tahiti in French Polynesia, hosting surfing. How could this impact the athletes’ performances, and do we have candidates for these places?


The handball team which has already secured Olympic quotas will compete in Lille,, as well as basketball players if they qualify through the qualification tournament. To secure an Olympic quota, they need to win first place in the tournament held just before the Olympics, beginning in early July in Greece. In sailing, we already have confirmed representatives: Palma Čargo, Elena Vorobeva, Filip Jurišić, Martin Dolenc, and Mihovil and Šime Fantela. Additionally, in shooting, which will take place at the National Shooting Center in Châteauroux, we will be represented by Giovanni Cernogoraz and other qualified shooters.

Changes in cities or even countries hosting competitions are not uncommon. We can recall the European Water Polo Championship held earlier this year in Dubrovnik and Zagreb, or the upcoming Handball World Championship scheduled for 2025 in Croatia, Denmark, and Norway. Athletes are accustomed to such changes, and everyone receives equal treatment. Hosting competitions in various cities and countries provides an excellent opportunity for promoting the country and sport, while also encouraging the development of sports infrastructure, which is beneficial for the further advancement of sports at both local and national levels.


3. A large maritime parade, organized to celebrate the arrival of the Olympic flame in France, took place in Marseille 79 days before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Paris. Among the athletes from other countries invited to carry the torch and attend this event was the celebrated Croatian basketball player Danira Bilić. How significant is it for Croatia as a country that one of its athletes is recognized as someone who will be part of this important ceremony? And does this send a special message?

This year, organizers designed an event where all members of the European Union, including Croatia, had their representatives carrying the flame. Ukraine also joined the EU countries on this occasion. We are extremely proud that Ms. Bilić carried the Olympic flame, representing our country. Notably, Danira Bilić, a celebrated Croatian basketball player, will be inducted into the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Hall of Fame in September this year.

As a top basketball player with three consecutive awards for the best female player in Europe (1988, 1989, and 1990), Danira Nakić has left a significant mark on European basketball. During 1987-1990, she won three silver medals with the former Yugoslavia’s national team at major events: the European Championship in Madrid (1987), the Summer Olympics in Seoul (1988), and the World Championship in Kuala Lumpur (1990).

Ms. Nakić is also a prominent sports official, serving as the President of the National Sports Council, the Croatian Fair Play Committee, and the Expert Council for Women’s Basketball at the Croatian Basketball Federation, as well as the Director of the Croatian Sports Museum.

Events like these undoubtedly promote Croatia in the best light and send a message about the outstanding athletes from our country.


4. Is our delegation satisfied with accommodations at the Olympic Village? Is everyone together, which other countries are they sharing the space? How important is it for them to be relaxed and satisfied where they are accommodated to achieve good results on the court?

We have our own facility at the Olympic Village, and there is a possibility that our national Olympic Committee will join us with a smaller number of athletes. We are satisfied with our accommodation and we will do everything that is in our power to provide our athletes with the best possible conditions and treatment. While accommodations are not decisive factors, in addition to physical fitness, the athletes’ success is influenced by external factors such as team atmosphere, nutrition, and climatic conditions. Therefore, we always ensure that the accommodation in the Olympic Village meets the athletes’ needs.


5. What would you single out as possible or potential issues that could arise during the Summer Olympics? Is it security, or possibly the possibility of some terrorist attacks and the like? What happens in such situations? Are there any behavioral guidelines?

As for security, the protocols that will be applied have been determined, and the delegations will be joined by a ‘security officer’ who will be in constant communication with the athletes, the French security services and our Embassy in Paris.

We hope that the Olympic truce, as one of the achievements of the Olympic movement, will be respected on this occasion as well.

The Olympic truce refers to the Greek tradition of ekecheiria (Holy Peace), which promotes a peaceful environment and ensures the safe passage and participation of athletes at the Olympics. The tradition of the truce was renewed in 1992 at the initiative of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which appealed for the observance of the Olympic truce during the XXV Olympics in Barcelona, ​​so that athletes from the republics of the former Yugoslavia could participate in them. The UN General Assembly first adopted the resolution on the Olympic Truce at the 48th session in 1993, and since then it has been adopted every two years, a few months before the start of the Olympics.

As the supreme sports body, the IOC firmly stands on the principles of Olympic understanding, solidarity, fair play and mutual trust.


6.How many fans from Croatia and other countries do you expect to support our athletes? How many tickets have been sold, and where will we have the greatest support?

The interest from fans is always significant, and support from the stands is crucial. Due to the proximity of the Games, we expect an increased number of fans. Tickets are available in limited quantities through the official agency. If our team sports (handball, water polo, and basketball) advance to the quarterfinals, we anticipate even greater interest from fans. In such a case, we will try to increase the Croatian contingent of tickets.


7. You have a lot of experience and have participated in various sports competitions. Could you give our readers some predictions about the number of medals? How many should we expect?

I am extremely proud of each of our athletes. Achieving the Olympic standard is no small feat, and I congratulate all of them on this accomplishment. Considering its size, Croatia has excellent results and consistently ranks high in the statistics of Olympic medals won, kept by the International Olympic Committee. For example, at the last Olympic Games in Tokyo, we won 8 medals and ranked 26th in terms of success. In London, we also ranked 26th with 6 medals, and in Rio, our most successful Olympic Games with ten medals won, we ranked 17th. Besides the medals won, it’s worth mentioning that our athletes reached 8 finals where they narrowly missed out on medals. We would certainly be delighted with similar successes this year.