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Sports tremble over their Olympic future

Posted: Thursday September 2, 2004 12:44AM; Updated: Thursday September 2, 2004 12:44AM
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ATHENS (Reuters) -- Kick out the synchronised swimming. Drop the dressage. Bring back the tug of war.

For the Olympic movement there is no more explosive issue than which sports to drop, which to bring in.

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Pity the International Olympic Committee (IOC), already worried about gigantism swamping the movement after a record 202 nations took part in the Athens Games.

It is all very well being faster, higher and stronger but bigger and bigger has to stop somewhere at the greatest sporting show on earth. No Olympic sport has been dropped since polo in 1936 and it is easy to see why.

"For any sports to be introduced, one would have to be kicked out," one IOC member explained.

"For that you need a two-thirds majority of all members. Think about it... once you begin thinking of voting some sports out, you immediately start to think 'who is going to vote me out?'

"There are around 120 members in the IOC all with different agendas, all with different interests... you're never going to get two-thirds of them to agree something like this."

Another mulled the idea. "It would be fun to have some of the old sports back," he smiled. "I like the idea of tug of war. You can see who wins and who loses... none of this judging confusion.

"If it was up to me I know which sports I would lose, too... some are barely sports, more like Hollywood movies," he grinned as the painted ladies of synchronised swimming went through their paces on the television screen in the background.

The IOC has decided not to remove any sports until 2012 but Olympic supremo Jacques Rogge has warned all 28 of them that they risk being dropped if they cannot show their worth.

Softball, modern pentathlon and baseball narrowly avoided the chop two years ago. Weightlifters will now be trembling after a string of doping offences in Athens.

After endless bar room discussions about the greatest sporting moment of all time, nothing fuels more passion among sports fans during the Olympics than mocking talk of "And you call that a sport?"

David Wallechinksy, whose weighty bible of Olympic stats is lumbered around Games venues by conscientious reporters, told Reuters: "What really bothers me is if a sport is only added for television because it gets great ratings."

Beach volleyball proved such a success at Sydney that it soared to fifth in the television ratings. Fans lapped up the sport in Athens too.

Wallechinksy likes a bit of action. "Dressage is so slow. Where does it fit into athletic endeavour?" he asked.

"I am a strong supporter of re-instating the tug of war. It is entertaining, it is fun and it is sport.

"My solution for solving the gigantism problem is that members of a tug of war team have to have competed in another sport. Throw in the weightlifters and the shot putters. I think it would sell."

John Jackson, who as a journalist and now British team spokesman has seen 22 Olympics, agrees.

"The tug of war would be a fun one to bring in," he told Reuters. "But I don't want golf in and tennis has become a bit of a farce."

Copyright 2004 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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