We are creative, we are innovative and we protect the legacy of Baron Pierre de Coubertin says modern pentathlon President

Jan. 25, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)
Depending on whether you believe rumours or not, which can always be a dangerous thing at even at the best of times, modern pentathlon is whispered to be one of the sports currently in real danger of being kicked off the Olympic Games sports programme.

At this stage, they are one of a number of sports which appear to be in a similarly precarious position as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board prepares to meet to discuss the situation next month.

That vital meeting in Lausanne on February 12 and 13 will see the Executive Board discuss which of the 26 sports that were part of London 2012 should be removed from the core programme and added to the seven who are currently bidding to be part of 2020.

It is considered by most experts that whichever sport is added to that group, which includes baseball/softball, climbing, karate, rollersports, squash, wakeboarding and wushu, will not survive as an Olympic sport.

Whichever sport goes knows it has at least one last hurrah at the Rio 2016 Olympics and, in what they hope will be astute move, the International Modern Pentathlon Union (UIPM) has unveiled their masterstroke for the Games in Brazil.

In an open letter, UIPM President Dr. h.c. Klaus Schormann explained plans for the Pentathlon Stadium.

Years in the making, the Pentathlon Stadium will allow spectators to watch all five modern pentathlon disciplines in five hours with one ticket from one seat.

"This revolutionary innovation will make its Olympic debut in Rio 2016 and will once again enhance our great sport to the spectators and media," says Schormann's letter.

The Pentathlon Stadium itself would be an existing venue, such as the main athletics stadium for the Olympics which goes unused for the first week of the Games. A few obvious tweaks to the venue would mean that in five hours, spectators could watch all five disciplines starting with swimming, then moving onto fencing and show riding and the combined shoot-run.

Modern Pentathlon StadiumThe UIPM has unveiled their plans for the Pentathlon Stadium scheduled to make its Olympic debut at Rio 2016

The timing seems almost too good to be true ahead of the IOC Executive Board meeting but Schormann explained that his plan has been long in the making, and was intended to debut at London, where the sport celebrated its centenary as an Olympic sport having made its debut at Stockholm in 1912. 

"This is not a reactive measure to people talking about us leaving the Olympics," the UIPM President told insidethegames.

"This is an active measure we are taking.

"We are creative, we are innovative and we are always looking to improve our sport. This is our latest step to do that.

"As I explained in my open letter, all these innovations target the world's youth, as they are the future of our sport. The young athletes were the first to try laser shooting at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore that then proved so successful at London 2012.

"They will now be the ones benefit from the new Pentathlon Stadium concept, as it will make the sport quicker and more exciting which is attractive to the fast paced life of today's younger generation.

"The main change that will occur is the fencing discipline. All the fencing action will now take place on one piste in an exciting, ladder, knock out system that ranks the fencers based on the results of the traditional fencing round held the day before and has them battling one another to improve their place and determine the overall winner.

"We have already spoken to the 2020 bid cities who are Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo and they love the idea.

"We actually had all this planned for London 2012 and we spoke to Lord Coe [the Organising Committee chairman] about using the Olympic Stadium as the Pentathlon Stadium for the Games.

"Unfortunately we didn't have the time to make that plan a reality. It wasn't a big problem because modern pentathlon was very successful in London, particularly the conclusion of the event in Greenwich Park that provided the perfect backdrop for the event. But we think we can raise the bar even higher going forward in Rio and beyond.

"Nothing is finalised, but the IOC and Rio 2016 have been involved in the discussion throughout the process and they will continue to be involved going forward. But the plan is now clear which is why we have announced it.

"In a way it is better to announce it now because it is exactly 150 years from the birth of the founder of our sport and the founder of the Modern Olympic Games Baron Pierre de Coubertin. This is a nice birthday present for him for us to be announcing it now."

Klaus Schormann 2UIPM President Dr. h.c. Klaus Schormann is confident modern pentathlon will not be removed from the Olympic Games sports programme

That Coubertin's giant shadow still looms large over the Olympic Movement could prove one of the greatest shields for modern pentathlon in their bid to remain in the Games. Even the most hardened IOC member will have reservations about removing the sport created by their organisation's founder, especially on the 150 year anniversary of his birth.

But for Schormann, the issue doesn't seem a grave concern.

"It is not the IOC who is suggesting we are going to leave the Olympic Games," he told me. "It is just speculation in the media. I am not saying that this is not important. The IOC obviously reads these publications and it does have an influence to some degree.

"But not once has any IOC member said to me or anybody at modern pentathlon that we are doing things wrong and in danger of leaving the Games. Even with all our history, which is important, which are one of the sports that is most ready to be innovative. You saw that with the laser shooting system and you see that again with the Pentathlon Stadium, which is already an existing Games venue so comes at no extra cost for an Organising Committee. So we don't focus on this, we focus on simply how to improve and innovate for the future."

Schormann, however, does touch on the grave consequences that removing the sport of the founder of the Modern Olympics from the Olympics would have on the Games. 

Baron Pierre de CoubertinModern Olympic Games founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin also invented modern pentathlon

"If you take modern pentathlon out of the Olympics, you destroy the legacy Baron Pierre de Coubertin," he said. "That is how I see it. He was the man that invented for our sport for the Olympic Games.

"There were two things that Baron Pierre de Coubertin gave to the Olympic Movement. One was the Cultural Olympiad and the other was modern pentathlon. I am part of the IOC Commission for Culture and Olympic Education where we protect his cultural and educational legacy for the Games.

"The name Coubertin gave it was the Cultural Olympiad so we work hard not to change this because that was the name he gave. So to alter the Cultural Olympiad and its name would destroy his cultural and educational legacy for the Olympics and to remove modern pentathlon would destroy his sporting legacy for the Olympics."

But looking ahead to the IOC Executive Board meeting next month, modern pentathlon will have an ally more powerful than the memory of Coubertin. That is because new IOC Executive Board member Juan Antonio Samaranch junior of Spain is first vice-president of UIPM.

Samaranch junior is obviously the son of former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, arguably the most significant figure in the history of the Olympic Movement outside Coubertin. Samaranch senior was not considered a huge modern pentathlon fan, suggesting once that the sport's days in the Olympic Movement were numbered, before retracting the statement.

But this is largely irrelevant. What is relevant is that the influential Samaranch junior will be at the table when the IOC Executive Board meet and he will be fighting his sport's corner.

This is not lost on Schormann.

Juan-Antonio-Samaranch JuniorInfluential IOC Executive Board member Juan Antonio Samaranch junior is also first vice-president of the UIPM

"You talk about Juan Antonio and you are right," he told me. "He has been one of our strongest supporters and has been involved for a long time in helping us improve our sport. But it is not just Juan Antonio who we have in terms of influential people in the Olympic Movement.

"We have Joel Bouzou as a vice-president who is President of the World Olympian Association (WOA) and Peace and Sport, we have Ivar Sisniega as a vice-president who has been Minister of Sport in Mexico and so many more people like this on our Executive Board. So Juan Antonio is very important for us, but he is not the only important one involved in helping make modern pentathlon the best it can possibly be."

The UIPM President concludes with the fact that the UIPM are not only targeting the Olympics, but the sport at all levels, which will do no harm to their chances of remaining an Olympic sport for many years to come.

"The UIPM is not only focused on the sport at the Olympic level; we are also using the new laser technology to complement modern pentathlon's development event, Biathle [run-swim-run] with a brand new event called Triathle which will see athletes run-shoot-swim. With the safe and environmentally friendly laser shooting, these events can now take place anywhere, such as in schools, city centres or even on beaches, which will allow us to spread our sport around the globe.

Modern pentathlon 2012Lithuania's Laura Asadauskaite on her way to the Olympic gold medal at London 2012

"This year will also see the debut of the UIPM Mixed Relay World Cup series in five countries in four continents. Ever since the event was included at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games and the 2010 Senior World Championships, it has been the athletes and fans favourite event. UIPM is looking forward to expanding this exciting discipline with this new series, building towards the event's inclusion at Rio 2016.

"The next four years are set to be very exciting for UIPM, as we continue to grow our sport internationally, as reflected by six different nations from three continents winning medals at in London 2012 and as we increase our appeal to the youth, through our fun, innovative technology and our new development event Triathle.

"We are looking forward to a bright future."
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