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  • What Next for Olympic Sports Hopefuls?


    By Ed Hula
    Courtesy of Around the Rings

    The way may be cleared for golf and rugby to join the 2016 Olympics.

    May be.

    But is all hope lost for any other sports to join the Summer Olympic program?

    A week ago the IOC Executive Board decided to recommend the addition of golf and rugby to the 2016 Olympics, dashing the hopes of baseball, karate, roller sports, softball and squash.

    There's no guarantee the IOC will go along with the proposal in October when it comes time to vote at the IOC Session in Copenhagen. The IOC has been a contrary bunch when it comes to tinkering with the Olympic program of late. In 2005 the IOC cut baseball and softball and then rejected adding any sports - golf and rugby among the fallen candidates.

    In an interview with Around the Rings, IOC President Jacques Rogge indicates he believes his colleagues will endorse the EB recommendation. In 2005, the EB provided no such guidance for the members ahead of their vote. Also making the mountain easier to climb is another change from 2005: a simple majority is needed to add new sports, not the cumbersome two-thirds rule formerly in place.

    IOC members will get the chance to vote on each sport. The result of the first vote will be kept secret until the second is cast. Beforehand, golf and rugby each will get some time to explain their case for the Games to the IOC Session.

    Between now and then, IOC members need to make up their minds about the two candidates.

    Will golf and rugby add a youthful edge to the Games? Who is to say what sports will kindle the fires of public interest in seven years?

    Will golf need to respond to questions about the exclusion of women from some of world's top clubs or whether the Olympics will be meaningful to such a well-developed sport?

    Is Rugby Sevens universal enough to merit a place on the program?
    Beyond the shelter of the EB imprimatur, IOC members also can seek answers to their questions in a 188-page report issued on all seven sports by the IOC Program Commission.

    But they will find few critical comments about the sports. Each section consists largely of verbatim excerpts from the files submitted from the sports. The harshest (and only) criticism is handed out in remarks on environmental plans, with karate and roller sports taking the hardest knock for not understanding how those sports impact the environment. Sustainability issues for golf courses are mentioned along with efforts by golf to address concerns about water use and chemicals.

    While environmental sustainability is a must to consider for 21st century life, it does seem slightly out of whack for the program commission to offer no commentary or review of the claims made by the sports in areas such as cost, popularity or development.

    Rugby and golf have the most to say: their sections run upwards of 30 pages, the longest among the seven.

    But what next for the five sports deemed unworthy for the 2016 Olympics?

    The next chance for them comes in 2013 when the program for the 2020 Games is determined. By then, the IOC is supposed to have trimmed another sport from the program to settle on a core of 25 sports. That would leave room for the addition of one more sport to hit the limit of 28.

    Will baseball, karate, roller sports, softball and squash still be the likely candidates?

    Or is time for the IOC to consider others from the list of nearly three dozen federations recognized, but not included in the Games? That list may be long, but how seriously can the IOC consider sports such as bandy, bridge, chess, mountain climbing or korfball?

    Cricket, bowling and surfing may be the best-known among those recognized sports, perhaps making them possibilities for the 2020 Games. But given the skepticism the IOC seems to have for new sports - along with a range of technical requirements -- the field of sports that are genuine contenders for the Olympics will likely remain limited.

    That's why the IOC President is telling the likes of baseball, karate, roller sports, softball and squash not to give up. Pay attention to the continental games where the sports have a place on the program, he says. But with Rogge insistent on keeping a cap on Olympic sports at 28, the chances remain discouragingly limited for any sport hoping to join the Olympic elite.