News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 28, 2014: Under intense media glare, the President of the Dominica Olympic Committee has jumped to the defense of the Montana, US couple who represented his nation at the just concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Felix Wilson is standing by Gary and Angelica Di Silvestri, who admitted they paid US$175,000 for citizenship in the Caribbean island and went on to make global headlines as Sochi’s oldest Olympians and the first husband-and-wife competing in the cross-country skiing event.
“The Di Silvestri family did NOT ‘buy’ their way to the Winter Olympic Games. Nothing was pre-arranged or pre-planned but done on merit after much sacrifice. There has been no violation of Olympic rules and principles,” Wilson told the San Diego Tribune in an email.
The pair qualified for the Olympics but barely competed in Sochi, meeting minimum performance even though they often skied near the back of the pack in pre-Olympics races.
They then had to meet the requirement of full citizenship of the nation they were representing, and Dominica had to have a governing body for the sport they qualified for.
The citizenship was bought and paid for. Gary Di Silvestri then created the country’s first ski association and became its president even though he had no residence there and never spent time there.
The International Ski Federation granted Dominica provisional membership in February 2013 even though the country is a tropical destination and has no ski slopes.
But the pair’s Olympic performance in Sochi, a first time for both, was but a footnote. The Italian-born Angelica Di Silvestri, 48, reportedly skied off course during training and broke her nose, missing her race completely.
Her husband Gary Di Silvestri, 47, who was born in Staten Island, reportedly came down with a stomach illness and collapsed 300 meters into his 15 kilometer event.
Dominica is one of several Caribbean countries who now sell citizenship to foreigners willing to pony up cash. The country provides citizenship to married couples who give at least $175,000.
Gary Di Silvestri interestingly saw the citizenship buy in as a favor to the country. “They needed assistance, so did we. We acted the best we could at the time, made a financial contribution to the country that went to different projects, and in return they granted us citizenship,” he told the New York Times before leaving for Sochi.
Interestingly, fourteen of the 18 affiliate members of the Dominica Olympic Committee wrote to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) last June, asking for intervention in a dispute which developed between them and the executive of the DOC.
In the letter dated June 7, 2013 and published by the Dominica News Online, the members said they were “aggrieved” at the manner in which the DOC was being governed by Wilson and general secretary, Thomas B. Dorsette.
They complained of irregularities during a meeting for the election of officers to the DOC executive on January 24, 2013.
“The matter really escalated into total chaos during and after the meeting which was called for the election of officers to the D.O.C Executive on January 24, 2013,” the letter stated. “There were many irregularities relating to this meeting which we are all convinced were illegal and unconstitutional.”
More than a year later, however, Wilson remains the DOC president.