POSTED: November 14th 2008

'B7' sets sports bid ball rolling

Squash goes to Lausanne (from left): Jahangir Khan, N Ramachandran, Sarah Fitz-Gerald, Tunku Imran, Susie Simcock and Andrew Shelley / Image: WSF
Squash goes to Lausanne (from left): Jahangir Khan, N Ramachandran, Sarah Fitz-Gerald, Tunku Imran, Susie Simcock and Andrew Shelley / Image: WSF

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT /Sports Features Communications

LAUSANNE: For better or worse, the seven sports chasing a slot in the 2016 summer Games are now irrevocably launched on a journey which reaches a climax in Copenhagen next October.

That is when the IOC will decide whether to add one or two or even no sports at all into the schedule for a host venue also being decided at the same Congress.

Yesterday in Lausanne the 'B7' - bid sports baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby union, softball and squash - presented their cases to the programme commission. The delegations then emerged in positive mood from hour-long sessions which comprised 20 minutes for the formal presentation followed by question-and-answer sessions.

All the sports’ representatives mostly echoed the words of Bernard Lapasset, president of the International Rugby Board, when he said: “We are very excited to be here today. We are looking forward to sharing our Olympic vision and setting out our sport’s unique attributes.”

The rugby delegation (below right), extolling the virtues of the sevens version of the game, also included Mike Miller the IRB secretary-general, Agustin Pichot a former captain of Argentina and Anastassiya Khamova, one of Kazakhstan's top female players and a leading figure in the women's game.

Bryan Habana, the IRB's 2007 player of the year in 2007 and a Rugby World Cup winner with South Africa, joined by video link.

Positive addition promised

Addressing the commission on the eve of South Africa’s match against Scotland, Habana said: “My fellow top players agree that competing at the Olympic Games would be an amazing experience. We would all be there and would be proud to call ourselves Olympians. I hope that you think we would be a positive addition to your programme and that the players and all those in rugby would strengthen and support the Olympic movement."

Rugby last appeared at the Games in 1924 which makes its absence comparatively short-lived compared with golf which was last seen in 1904 in St Louis.

Golf’s presentation was led by Peter Dawson, chief executive of The Royal & Ancient and joint secretary of the International Golf Federation, and by PGA Tour executive Ty Votaw who is executive director of the IGF Olympic Golf Committee.

Among the key points they highlighted were golf’s worldwide participation and diversity, the sport’s economic and charitable impact and its youth commitment.

Dawson said: “Golf truly is an international sport with 60m participants in nearly 120 countries – and it continues to grow with new initiatives being implemented all over the world to teach the game to both young and old. We believe the time is right for golf to be brought back to the Games.”

A series of short films featuring top players’ expressions of support included contributions from Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, the top-ranked woman golfer, and closed with world No1 Tiger Woods.

Worldwide outreach

Squash’s case was put by a delegation led by IOC member Tunku Imran, a former world federation president, and which included other past presidents in Susie Simcock and Jahangir Khan. They underlined for the commission that squash has had world champions from all regions as well as around 150 national federations.

The new WSF president N Ramachandran said: “The questions we were asked indicated a full understanding of our sport, and an interest in details of our structure. They now know even more clearly what we stand for, our strengths and everything positive that we believe we could bring to the Olympic programme in 2016."

Softball’s team, led by ISF president Don Porter, promised to make its sport the most inclusive on the planet in the bid to regain the Olympic presence it has lost for 2012.

Porter outlined significant changes undertaken since 2005 when softball was voted out - including increasing the number of federations to 127, improving education programs, promoting and providing coaching and equipment in under-developed areas and making rule changes to enhance the spectator experience and make the sport more TV- friendly.

He said: “The Singapore vote in 2005 was a wake-up call, a chance, for our sport to change and improve - and we have seized that chance with both hands. Our mission is to make softball the most inclusive team sport on the planet."

Keywords · 2016 · IOC · Bernard Lapasset · IRB · Bryan Habana · Peter Dawson · International Golf Federation · Ty Votaw · Lorena Ochoa · Tiger Woods · squash · softball

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