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IOC report proposes sport shakeup

Posted: Thursday August 29, 2002 3:50 PM

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Baseball, softball and modern pentathlon have three months left to save their sports from being dropped from the Olympics. Ballroom dancing, surfing and bowling can forget trying to get into the games.

The International Olympic Committee executive board considered an internal report Thursday proposing the biggest shakeup in the sports program of the summer games.

The program commission recommends eliminating baseball, softball and modern pentathlon, as well as events and disciplines in wrestling, equestrian, rowing, sailing, canoe-kayak and others.

The report proposes adding golf and rugby -- on condition that the sports' top athletes take part.

The executive board put off a decision on the proposals until its next meeting in late November in Mexico City. The board will then make recommendations to the full IOC session, meeting Nov. 26-29, for final approval.

Cutting sports requires a simple majority of the assembly of more than 120 members. A two-thirds majority is needed for adding sports.

The revised program would go into effect at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

The IOC board rejected applications of 14 sports seeking a spot in the Olympics. Among those turned down were ballroom dancing, surfing, bowling, bridge, chess, billiards, squash, water skiing and racquetball.

The board said it would continue to review the possibility of proposing wushu, a Chinese martial art, for inclusion in the games. Karate could also remain under consideration. Judo and taekwondo are already on the Olympic program.

Whatever happens, IOC president Jacques Rogge said, the program would be kept at a maximum of 28 sports -- the current level.

"It will be a difficult decision," he said at the conclusion of a three-day executive board meeting. "It's definitely not going to be an easy task. We're prepared for that."

While the program commission proposals were made strictly on technical criteria, the board will take into account "sports political considerations," Rogge said.

The last time a sport was removed from the Olympics was in 1936, when polo was dropped.

In recent years, the IOC talked about eliminating sports, but only added new ones. Rogge, however, is determined to keep the size of the games under control.

"If we want a situation where everyone is everyone's friend and we're are buddies, well we don't move," Rogge said. "I don't know what is going to happen but what I think is very important is that the commission of renowned experts have given a signal, and that signal is that there is a problem with some federations.

"Will that problem end up in the expulsion? I don't know yet. But I believe the proposal is a strong warning -- a shot across the bows of these federations that we think there is a problem there."

The commission report also recommended:

-- exclusion of either Greco-Roman or freestyle wrestling, citing "low public and media comprehension of differences between the two disciplines."

-- boxing remain in the Olympics but its status be reviewed because of image problems; women's boxing not be considered for inclusion.

-- elimination of canoe-kayak slalom; three-day event in equestrian; race walking in track and field; keelboat class in sailing; synchronized swimming team event; light-weight rowing event; badminton mixed doubles event, and a reduction in athletes and events in shooting.

Baseball became a full medal event at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. However, unlike other sports which have attracted the world's top professionals, Olympic baseball has failed to include top major league players, since the season overlaps with the games.

The IOC report cited the absence of the top players, said baseball's popularity is restricted to certain continents and noted high venue construction costs.

Aldo Notari, the Italian president of the International Baseball Federation, said he would call urgent meetings with officials of the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Major League Baseball, players associations and pro leagues in Japan and other countries.

"All the baseball officials must work together to keep our sport on the program," he said. "I believe the proposal will not be passed at the session since we are going to do our best to avoid it."

USA Baseball said in a statement: "We are confident that the final results of the review and decision process ... will still include baseball, with its broad worldwide appeal, as a key sport in the 2008 Games."

Softball was added to the Olympics in Atlanta. But the IOC report said the sport lacked global popularity and had high venue construction costs.

Modern pentathlon, an Olympic sport since 1912, consists of fencing, swimming, shooting, horseback riding and running. The IOC report said it lacked global participation.

Joel Bouzou, secretary general of the modern pentathlon federation, said it would be grave mistake to get rid a sport which was brought into the Olympics by Pierre de Coubertin, the French founder of the modern games.

"It's clear there will never be millions of pentathletes in the world," Bouzou said. "But it is a symbolic sport and part of Pierre de Coubertin's legacy. How can you kill the only sport created by the renovator of the games? If pentathlon is taken out of the program, it will die."


 
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