POSTED: February 16th 2010

JOHN GOODBODY: Winter Games can benefit from a touch of summer

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN - first of an authoritative new series / Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Feb 16: A record 82 countries may be taking part in the Winter Olympics, four more than in Turin in 2006, including such unlikely nations as Bermuda in the skeleton bob and Ghana in Alpine skiing, but it is time that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) looked carefully at how it can boost global interest in an event, which remains of little attraction in many parts of the world.

One astute decision of the IOC was to move the staging of the Winter Games in the same 12 months as the Summer Olympics to the other even year in the four-year Olympic cycle.

This began with Lillehammer in 1994. The shift spread interest in the Olympics, helped sponsors and television companies and also aided the IOC itself so that it could focus more fully on the two Games now held in different years.

To adjust interest in the two celebrations, which are together with the FIFA World Cup and possibly the European Football Championship the biggest money-spinners in international sport, the IOC should consider moving some of the sports on the programme of the Summer Games across to the Winter Olympics.

There are many activities on the 26-sport list of the Summer Olympics, which take place indoors and, in most countries, primarily are held during the winter in any case. These include: weight-lifting, wrestling, judo, tae-kwon-do, table-tennis, volleyball, handball, gymnastics and basketball.

I am not suggesting that all of them should be included on the schedule but some of them certainly could be.

Positive publicity

There would be difficulties in some cases. For instance, the Winter Games take place in February and therefore clashes quadrennially with the National Basketball Association season in the United States, which would preclude many of the world's outstanding players from participating in the Games.

However, some of the international federations would welcome the greater publicity they would attract by being in the Winter rather than Summer Games when they are sometimes submerged.

Nor would facilities be a problem. The advantage of all of these sports is that they take place in temporary accommodation, large indoor halls, used for much of the time for other activities, many of them non-sporting. And most host cities for the Games have just such a venue, Turin and Vancouver being two examples.

All that is neededs is for the IOC to change the regulation that the Winter Sports should take place on 'snow or ice' for it to raise the profile of the Winter Games and aid the Olympic Movement.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001.

Keywords · John Goodbody · Winter Olympics · IOC

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