POSTED: April 24th 2012

JOHN GOODBODY: Bookmaker odds on the 2020 Olympic sports

William Hill Park Lane Branch London / William Hill
William Hill Park Lane Branch London / William Hill

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LONDON: The British bookmakers, William Hill, are never reluctant to offer odds in sport. And among the latest they have issued is which sports might be included in the 2020 Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set a limit of 28 sports, two more than in London because baseball and softball have both been dropped for 2012.

However, for Rio de Janeiro, there will be 28 and the additional ones are golf and rugby sevens. The addition of golf has had its critics while the selection of rugby sevens, rather than the far more popular game of 15-a-side rugby union is the result of the IOC being completely deceived in the bidding process by the International Rugby Board.

 It is rather as if, during the 1980s, when the International Tennis Federation (ITF) was lobbying to return to the Games, it promoted just doubles tournaments rather than singles, the male and female competitions of which are what primarily interests the public. Tennis did return in 1988 and to the credit of the ITF, singles (and doubles) were held. Dr. Jacques Rogge has been a largely sensible and certainly likeable IOC President but his championing of rugby sevens is one of the biggest errors of his 12 year-term.

Still we are now set with 28 sports for 2016 and therefore for any new ones to be included in 2020, some must drop out. There must also be a pressing case to include a fresh activity. William Hill has made karate 1/2 to make the programme, with squash at 1/1.

Fond as I am of karate, having competed myself in the activity and helped run the first all-styles British Championship in 1967, I cannot see karate having a strong case, until it makes certain that all the myriad of organisations in the different countries are embraced by the World Karate Federation (WKF), the body recognised by the IOC. For instance, one grouping, the World Shotokan Karate Association (WSKA), is currently not included in the WKF and nor are those organisations in more than 20 countries, which are affiliated to the WSKA.

It was ever thus. Karate is an activity that lends itself to bitter rivalries and disputes among governing bodies, often of different styles. Its history is like that of Christianity. Often the practioners focus their attention on their intense disagreements rather than the ultimate purpose of their devotion.

Nor are many contests really satisfactory because fighters have to ‘pull’ their punches and kicks to prevent serious injury and one can have situations when someone, who is lying unconscious on the floor, is the winner because his opponent has been disqualified.

Many IOC members would also see the sport as too similar to taekwondo, which is globally far less popular than karate but thanks to the efforts of the totally discredited former Korean IOC member, Dr. Un Yong Kim, to get the sport into the Games, has been on the programme since 2000. The truth is that taekwondo and karate are both ways of fighting with hands and feet and taekwondo will use everything it can to retain its status as an Olympic sport. I would not put any money on karate getting a place in the Games by 2020, let alone at the odds offered by William Hill.

Squash seems a more appropriate selection but I have yet to be convinced that it has the necessary global reach to be included. For the moment, I think the IOC may well keep the programme as it is and see how the sports progress in Rio in 2016.

** 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 · Willian Hill · IOC · sports · 2020 Games

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