Olympic Inclusion:

IOC Set for Vote That Could Add Roller Sports to Olympic Games

Speculation Abounds, Though Most Insiders Don't Expect IOC to Change Olympic Program

By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson

Now that London has been picked to host the 2012 Olympics, does English-born rugby have an edge over the four other sports vying for a spot on the program?

Probably not. But with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set to vote Friday in Singapore, that's one of the popular story lines, even as insiders say any change in the sports roster is unlikely.

The thing to remember is this: No new sports can enter the Games unless an equal number get the boot.

The replacement candidates are rugby, golf, karate, squash and roller sports (in the guise of inline speed skating).

The rumored candidates for the axe are baseball, softball, taekwondo, equestrian and modern pentathlon.

But at this point, it's not clear that the IOC has the stomach for the kind of self-surgery that would be required to change the program.

Few people doubt the wisdom of at least making a few minor changes. (Does anyone, for instance, honestly believe that the Summer Games need both the indoor and beach volleyball events?)

But the Olympics is basically a bureaucracy -- and bureaucracies are notoriously difficult to change.

Nothing makes this more clear than the situation with modern pentathlon, one of the 28 current summer sports.

It is a combination event involving shooting, fencing, swimming, running and show jumping on horseback.

It was invented by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, and introduced into the 1912 Stockholm Games.

But its appeal -- never great -- has been fading. These days, it attracts few participants, fewer spectators and little media coverage.

Yet, when IOC president Jacques Rogge proposed removing it from the 2004 program, he nearly had his head removed.

One of the reasons for this is the perception that modern pentathlon, which gets 72 percent of its revenues from the Olympics, could not survive outside the Games.

The same might also apply to a few other Olympic sports, including equestrian and shooting.

As IOC member Bob Ctvrtlik, a former U.S. volleyball player, recently told Sports Illustrated:

"I respect President Rogge for ... trying to keep a modern program. ... But it'll be very difficult to get half the members to vote a sport off. The problem is, you could really put an end to a sport like modern pentathlon with a no vote."

But then again, who knows?

Maybe the IOC members -- an unusually press-shy crowd (except when they want help generating revenue) -- are ready for a change.


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Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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