The future of many traditional and well establishedevents at future Olympic Games seems to have been left in doubt, as a result ofnew rules that have been agreed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).The rules will in effect allow additional sports to be incorporated into theOlympic programme, by providing further flexibility for the host countries intheir determination of which sports and which events within those sports toinclude in the Games they produce.

During a two-day IOC meeting in Monaco, theydecided to drop plans for a 28-sport limit, instead voting for a cap on thenumber of competitors and events that each Olympics can allow for.  

The IOC have acted in response to calls to be morereflective of the sports and pastimes that are now favoured and hence havegreater appeal to young people, such as surfing. In truth, they have a waiting listof sports vying to be found a place for in the Games and not all can be leftsatisfied by their decision, however hard they try to accommodate all sports insome shape or form.

In principle it would seem a sensible decision as thepurpose of the Olympic movement has always been to encourage sporting endeavourby the youth of the current day, so in order to ensure that they deliver onthat commitment then the programme of events should be an up to date reflectionof the sports being participated in. The Olympics is the ultimate stage onwhich athletes from all sports can demonstrate their abilities to a globalaudience.

The ‘sticking point’ with the notion of expanding the events to beshowcased in the Games is the cap on the number of athletes at 10,500 in total andfor a maximum of 310 events across all of the sports included. It is believedthat the competitor limit will result in mounting pressure to make reductions insome of the sports where there are a plethora of existing events included, withthe obvious ‘targets’ being such as track and field (Athletics) and swimming.

Some events are already being brought into the discussionson what to ‘axe’ with Canada’s IOC member, Dick Pound putting the case for thetriple jump , synchronised swimming and race-walking to be removed. That issure to raise the emotions of many an aspiring and developing young athlete currentlyparticipating in those sports with dreams of future glory and if actioned couldsee take up rates diminish as a result in those sports.

The counter argumentwould of course be that in order to encourage participation in those sportscurrently not in the Olympic programme, the ‘carrot’ of potential futureinclusion could be a godsend to them instead.

The man behind the wonderful Olympics in London in 2012,Sebastian Coe, who is head of the British Olympic Association andvice-president of the IAAF, was clearly not in agreement with Mr Pound’sthoughts, as he responded by saying that the “..triple jump is a sacrosanctsport in track and field” and he also defended the right for race-walking to maintainits position.

He did however agree with the conclusion that there would bepressure to see where cuts could be made as not every sport can be found aplace for, so if new sports come in then others will have to drop out as aconsequence. Currently, athletics is right at the centre of the Olympics’extravaganza every four years, with most of its events being held in the mainstadium and given prime time television slots for many of its 47 disciplines,giving participation for around a fifth of the total number of sportspeople atany Games. From a current position of strength, the sport of athletics willneed to ensure that it continues to fight its case for all of the currentevents to be continued in the Olympic programme, but one wonders how thecontinued revelations around doping in the sport in recent years will effectthat apparent powerbase, as some IOC members like Mr Pound may well see theopportunity for other less tarnished sports to get their chance instead.

It would be a shame though for the popular “hop, skip andjump” to be removed, denying the public from seeing the elegance of such as thenext Jonathan Edwards, whose prodigious distances rank alongside the iconicimages from past Games. Other sports do deserve their chance if a sufficientlywell balanced case can be put for them to come in and other sports be removed,but the debates around how this should be managed in a fair and equitable waywill no doubt rage on for a while yet before a final decision is made.

There would be a precedent for seemingly establishedevents to be removed, as Track cycling knows all too well, with Olympicchampion Chris Boardman’s individual pursuit being one of those eventssubsequently removed. Indeed the programme has been constantly tweaked over theyears with such as rugby and golf now being brought into the fold for Rio in2016 after many years of exclusion, and some sports such as wrestling (removedfrom the core list of sports in 2013 only to be voted back on later that sameyear) enjoy something of a ‘yo-yo’ existence at the Summer Olympics.

No further changeswill be made to the Rio programme as a result of the new rules, but it ispossible that both baseball and softball could be found a place for at the 2020Olympics in Tokyo, given that both sports are popular with the Japanese nation.Other sports such as squash, which proved a revelation at the recent CommonwealthGames in Glasgow, may also fancy their chances in the near future.
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