Olympic Sports Hopefuls Wait for Decision

June 16, 2009, 12:55 p.m. (ET)

On the Scene: Olympic Sports Hopefuls Wait for Decision


(ATR) Leaders of the seven sports hoping to join the Olympics now wait to hear whether they make a short list of two finalists.

Baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby, softball and squash each took a turn meeting with the IOC Executive Board Monday at IOC headquarters to press the case for their addition to the program for the
2016 Olympics.

The sports had 30 minutes – 20 minutes to present – and 10 minutes for questions.

IOC President Jacques Rogge told each delegation that it was the intent of the IOC to name two finalists at the next meeting of the EB, Aug. 13 in Berlin.

But IOC Director General URs Lacotte says even with the naming of a shortlist, the five sports not selected by the IOC will still be invited to the IOC Session in Copenhagen. When asked whether those five might have the chance to be reconsidered for the 2016 program, Lacotte indicated that the Session would have the power to decide that sort of question.

IOC Sports Director Christophe Dubi says all seven sports made “interesting, exciting” presentations and said they all would appear to be evenly matched.

In addition to a decision on the 2016 sports, Dubi says the EB will decide in August on 33 changes requested by the sports federations for the London Olympics. These changes include the addition of events, such as women’s boxing, or modifications, such as the request of modern pentathlon to combine the running and shooting events into one.

Baseball Plans TV Schedule for Olympics

International Baseball Federation President Harvey Schiller told the IOC Executive Board that no Major League Baseball games would be televised at the same time as Olympic baseball games during the proposed five-day tournament. In addition, no Major League games would be scheduled on the final day of Olympic baseball, when the medal games are played.

"We made clear statements about some of the issues that had been focused on -- perhaps why baseball was voted out (in 2005)," Schiller said.

Those issues include after-use of venues, doping and the commitment of Major League baseball to make sure the best selection of players are available for participating countries.

Schiller said all four 2016 bid cities have the facilities to host baseball, which would need two stadiums, but baseball would help with any construction costs.

Bob DuPuy of Major League Baseball and Don Fehr of the Major League Baseball Players Association promised that a "representative number" of the league's top players would compete, although they said no number has been specified.

"I think the members in the room seemed to be generally aware of what's baseball's done, aware of the contributions and appreciative we were here," Fehr said.

Baseball showed two videos, which included segments on the financial strength of the game, marketing and licensing.

Golf Brings Top Names to Lausanne

Ty Votaw, the executive director of the International Golf Federation, addressed questions about Olympic eligibility for players, where caddies would be housed and the sport's commitment to develop among youth of the world.

"The difficulty is no one will know what the world rankings will look like in 2016," he said.

Based on proposed eligibility requirements, women from 31 countries on five continents will play, while the men's side will have players from 30 countries on five continents.

Scottish player Colin Montgomery said that men and women each have four major championships a year.

"We feel that that is the top of the game of the golf, but it's certainly not at the top of sport," he said.

If golf becomes an Olympic sport, he added, "You will see every man and woman that is eligible to play compete."

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, who has retired and is expecting her first child in September, said the growth of the game is important in countries without the financial resources to play golf.

If it becomes an Olympic sport, "The government will step in with courses, with practice," she said.

IGF Co-Secretary Peter Dawson said that in an unprecedented move, no other significant golf tournament would be played during the Olympics.

Karate Confident of Winning Support

World Karate Federation President Antonio Espinos says he feels even more confident about karate’s chances of getting on the Olympic program than in 2005 when the sport failed to get the two-thirds majority vote at the IOC Session to gain admission.

“I have an even better feeling. We have been doing a lot to show the pace of progress we have made in the last four years,” he told reporters after karate’s presentations to the EB.

Espinos said that 54 IOC members voted for karate at the Session. “I am very confident we will have the same support and that we will succeed. I don’t know of any reason to think we wouldn’t.”

The WKF delegation showed five videos as part of their presentation, with only Espinos speaking in the allotted time.

There was only one question asked concerning player injuries in competition. But Espinos felt the lack of questioning was a plus point, saying it showed the karate team had addressed all issues associated with the sport’s plan to join the Olympics.

Espinos said he had not felt it necessary to justify the addition of a third martial art to the Olympic program (judo and taekwondo are the others), pointed to the sport’s global appeal and the fact it is played on all five continents.

Roller Sports Push Youth Appeal

International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) chiefs were pleased with the feedback they received after pitching their appeal to the EB. “The reaction was great for us,” FIRS Secretary general Roberto Marotta tells ATR.

“It is a sport which is meaningful for young people. If the IOC wants to open the program to youth they have to allow us to come in… but we know the other sports are very strong.”

FIRS President Sabatino Aracu spoke about the development of roller sports and its disciplines, stressing the popularity of roller speed skating among young people. Marotta gave details about the Olympic proposal, which includes 500m, 1000m, 10km, 15km and marathon races.

Although FIRS has left the door open to stage either road or indoor races, there were no questions from the EB on this aspect. Marotta’s preference is for “more exciting” indoor competitions where, he said, skaters average speeds of nearly 44kmph in 15km races and 60kmph in sprint events.

Two questions came on plans for the sport’s worldwide development and FIRS anti-doping efforts.

Federation chiefs told the EB that the sport’s new out-of-competition testing regime, introduced only last year, was working well. Marotta said the federation was now fully compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s new code; 104 anti-doping controls were carried out among the 550 skaters who competed in the sport’s world champs in Spain last year.

FIRS presenting team included roller speed skaters Italy’s Ippolito Sanfratello and Derek Parra of the U.S. Five short videos also gave a snapshot of the sport.

Rugby Addresses Concern over Sevens

IRB president Bernard Lapasset knew he would not only have to convince the Executive Board that rugby was a good fit for the Olympics, but also the particular
form of rugby that his organization is proposing.

"They said why sevens and not 15s?" he said.

Rugby union, the version that has more players and longer games than rugby sevens, is more established. "We responded that these are two different disciplines that we have, different visions," Lapasset said.

Mike Miller, IRB secretary general, added that "Sevens works incredibly well in multi-sport events. It's a proven success, the players love it, the fans love it, it's great for TV and it's easy to understand. Sevens works much better."

However, players from both disciplines could play in the Olympic Games, and Miller promised that the top players will compete.

"We have a regulation in place, for the Olympic Games and Olympic Games qualifying tournaments that players must be released -- everyone wants to perform at the Olympic Games. It's the biggest sporting stage in the world."

Miller said an EB member was inspired to ask a question after watching the two videos. "How far does a rugby player run in an average match?"

Answered Humphrey Kayange, captain of the men's team for Kenya: "6 to 10 kilometers."

And the reaction to the overall presentation? Said Lapasset, "Some people smiling, some people not."

No IOC Questions for Softball

After delivering their 20-minute presentation to the Executive Board, softball team members were surprised to receive no questions.

"We prepared for three days and we went over every question that we thought would be proposed," said ISF president Don Porter. "And we were ready. But we had no questions."

Porter was surrounded by players and administrators, whom he says have been dubbed "Don's Angels."

Softball has stressed that although it is willing to add a men's discipline, it is a sport that would increase female participation on the Olympic playing field and in the board room. Forty percent of our executive council members in the ISF are women.

"The outstanding number of leaders we have brought into the administrative level, we really exceed the IOC mandate on women's leadership," said BackSoftball vice-chairman Donna DeVarona.

ISF Deputy Secretary General Low Beng Choo said that many people don't see the sport's development work.

"We've been able to do a lot of work in troubled communities," she said.
"And that's what the world needs: team sports like us, who will be able to bring people together. Just a bat, a ball and a field."

Porter said he didn't sense any acknowledgement from the IOC that the members wrong to vote softball out in 2005.

"It was certainly disappointing to us," Porter said. "In a sport, some win some lose. So we want to come back. We want to win. In the next one, we need to have a win."

Youngster Stars for Squash

The World Squash Federation boasted the youngest presenter of the day in 13-year-old Ethiopian Hanna Fekede Balcha. She is one of 40 youngsters who have joined a squash and education program in San Diego, U.S. funded by the sport’s donors.

Speaking to reporters after the WSF pitch to the EB, she said: “I talked about how squash has helped me and changed my life. If squash was in the Olympics, I could represent Ethiopia.”

George Mieras, officer in the charge of the bid, tells Around the Rings that Fakeda was the star turn. “It [the program] could not have been made possible without squash.”

WSF President N Ramachandran told reporters that the federation had done a “professional job”.

He wasn’t surprised there were no questions put by EB members. “We answered the whole lot in terms of our presentation,” he said.

The WSF used all six speakers and showed an eight-minute video to get their message across. The universality of squash, which has had world champions from all five continents, and low cost of staging the sport, including details on how its glass-sided courts would be constructed, were among themes in the presentation, he said.

Written by Mark Bisson, Karen Rosen and Ed Hula ehula@aroundtherings.com.

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