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London to host reduced Games

July 09, 2005 16:47 IST

London will stage a reduced Olympic Games in 2012 after baseball and softball were wiped from the programme in a controversial vote on Friday.

London's showpiece will now feature 26 sports rather than 28 after International Olympic Committee (IOC) members rejected proposals to replace the axed sports with two from rugby sevens, golf, squash, karate and roller sports.

Baseball and softball failed to win a majority of votes in a ballot of members at the IOC Session at the Raffles complex and became the first sports to be cut from the Games since polo in 1936.

In a farcical display of bureaucracy, IOC members went through seven rounds of voting to decide which two of the five would-be Olympic sports should be put up for a vote to give them Olympic status.

Having selected squash and karate, the members then overwhelmingly rejected their bids to join the Olympic programme.

The last Olympics to be staged with just 26 sports was Atlanta in 1996. The minimum number of sports required for an Olympic Games is 15, while the maximum is 28.

"Today was a decision to put quality over quantity," IOC communications director Giselle Davies said.

Although London will have two less sports than Beijing in 2008, it is expected the IOC will tweak the programme of events and boost numbers among the events so the Games will be no smaller than Beijing's.

"It's entirely a matter for the IOC. We're delighted to deliver a Games with 26 sports. We're happy with the decision," London 2012 communications director Mike Lee said.

"There will be some savings through not having temporary venues in Regents Park but it is not a major consideration.

"We will deliver the Games the IOC want."

CULTURAL EVENTS

Lee said Regents Park will now likely be used to stage cultural events during the Games period.

In 2002 the IOC capped the number of sports at an Olympic Games at 28, the number of events at 301 and the number of athletes at 10,500.

At that same session in Mexico City, IOC President Jacques Rogge proposed that baseball, softball and modern pentathlon be dropped, and golf and rugby union added.

However, IOC members resisted and no vote was taken.

"This is payback for Mexico City," a visibly shocked softball federation chief Don Porter said after his sport's rejection. "They wanted us out in 2002. It has taken them three years but they have got us.

"We didn't expect this at all. The discussions we have had all week led us to believe we were safe to assume the programme would remain unchanged for 2012.

"I don't want to say it's an anti-US thing, but they are two native American sports."

Baseball federation president Aldo Notari said: "The problem with baseball is that the best players are not going to the Olympics Games.

"But baseball is still in Beijing. It is still necessary to work for the future in 2016," the Italian added.

"DISAPPOINTED SPORTS"

Rogge urged the two sports not to lose heart. "Needless to say, these sports will be disappointed," he said. "But this does not disqualify them forever.

"Olympic sports they are in Beijing, and Olympic sports they will remain. As such they will remain eligible for the Olympic programme after 2012."

The sports programme for 2016 will be voted on after the 2008 Beijing Games.

Once again all Olympics sports -- including softball and baseball who do not lose their status -- will be put to a vote one-by-one.

IOC members were shocked by the ejections. "I am very surprised," German member Thomas Bach said. "I did not expect this."

Australian Olympic Committee chairman John Coates was saddened by the result. "I'm shocked and disappointed," he said. "It is very sad to lose two of our member sports.

"Problems with doping in US baseball probably cost the sport dearly. Softball was a bigger shock especially with the push within the IOC to further increase women's participation in the Olympics."

 

Ossian Shine
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