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

(page 2 of 2)

Both Sabatino Aracu, the president of the International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS), and Roberto Marotta, the secretary general, have been in Singapore this week, lobbying IOC members.

But they are not the only ones. The top officials of all the candidate sports and many of the endangered sports have been camped out there, trying to defend their turf.

Even before Wednesday's vote, in which the IOC selected London to host the 2012 Summer Games, rugby was picked by several observers as the frontrunner among Olympic hopefuls.

But this may be more wishful thinking than anything else.

Rugby did come up looking like a money maker in the Olympic Programme Commission report. It excels in its ability to rake in the cash and attract sponsors -- and these are things that the IOC cares about.

But rugby also has a big problem: As proposed by the International Rugby Federation, it would be a men's-only event, which doesn't fit with the modern Olympic ideal of inclusivity.

This ideal is important enough to the IOC that one of the 33 criteria used to evaluate sports during the recent review was "gender equality."

The IOC is still predominately made up of men. But it seems unlikely that members would want to put themselves in a position in which they would have to explain why they picked a sport that excludes women while passing over others that do not.

Golf is another sport that is often given "frontrunner" status among the candidate sports.

But although another money maker, it also has a serious flaw.

Some of its top athletes, including Tiger Woods, have said they are not sure they would be willing to take time off the lucrative PGA (Professional Golf Association) tour to compete in the Games.

That can't sit well with the IOC. Another of its criteria is whether a sport's best athletes would be likely to compete in the Games.

Apparently the answer is no in the case of golf.

So what about roller sports?

It's hard to say.

The Programme Committee didn't reveal any glaring problems with the sport, although it faulted FIRS for not hooking up with "TV-friendly teenage skating activities."

But the report gave roller sports low marks in several areas, including number of dollars generated, number of countries involved and number of spectators.

On the other hand, it noted that adding roller sports to the Games would not cost much.

The eight racing events would involve only 72 athletes. (The only sport that would add fewer would be squash with 64 athletes.) And all races would be held either on the Olympic velodrome (used for bicycle racing) or on an outdoor road course.

Roller sports may have one more thing going for it: geography.

The sport, in its many forms (speed, downhill, artistic and freestyle), is most popular in Europe. And Europe happens to be home for more than half of all of the IOC members.

That could give roller sports a hometown advantage.

But it's all speculation.

What we do know is this: On Friday, the 116 IOC



Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

members are scheduled to cast secret ballots, one for each of the 28 current summer sports.

If any sport gets less than a majority(59 votes), it will be excluded from the 2012 Summer Games.

If any sports are excluded, the IOC's Executive Committee will nominate an equal number of replacement sports.

The General Assembly will vote on the nominations with a two-thirds vote required for entry into the Games.

If none of the nominations get the required vote, the Olympic program will simply shrink a bit.

Regardless of what happens, the whole process will be repeated in four years to prepare the program for the 2012 Summer Games, Rogge says.

He told IOC members on Tuesday that "the most important thing ... is that the IOC is equipped with a process that will allow it, after each Games, to manage and prepare the future of the programme."

So whatever happens Friday, there is still hope for the future.

Consider the case of London. It mounted four failed Olympic bids before finally winning the right to host the Games.

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(posted July 7, 2005)



Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson

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