POSTED: November 26th 2014

JOHN GOODBODY: Olympic Agenda 2020 is fine but does not go far enough

The IOC will convene in Monaco December 8-9 to debate Olympic Agenda 2020
The IOC will convene in Monaco December 8-9 to debate Olympic Agenda 2020

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

(SFC) Thomas Bach is playing a careful hand in the card-game that is the future of the Olympic Movement. The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has overseen a raft of reforms under the title of ‘Olympic Agenda 2020’ which will be voted in Monte Carlo on December 8 and 9. Almost all of them are both sensible and feasible and are likely to be ratified by the IOC Session.

The clear message that comes through most of the proposals is greater flexibility, allowing wider scope for those countries and cities wanting to stage the Games. This is all to the good. For instance, it is suggested that the present limit of 28 sports is abandoned. It will be possible for the host city to add one or more sports to the programme, provided that the number of events remains the same at a limit of 10,500 competitors and 310 medal events for the Summer and 2,900 athletes and 100 medal events for the Winter Games.

So baseball and softball, which have been dropped from the Olympic programme, could come back, possibly even for 2020 in Tokyo because both are popular in Japan. However, to make this work the organisers would have to reduce the number of events in other sports on the programme, something that will make for some hard bargaining with the relevant international federations. Still the idea is to be applauded because it does allow a city staging the Games to bring in those sports which have a particular following in that country.

And when I say a city staging the Games, this again is the subject for flexibility. It is now proposed that the IOC will permit “the organisation of entire sports and disciplines outside the host city, or, in exceptional cases, outside the country, notably for reasons of geography and sustainability”. Of course, to a certain extent, this already occurs because the football tournament is staged across the country while it has been common for the yachting events to be held well away from the host city. It should also be recalled that in 1956, a precedent was set when the equestrian competitions were staged in Sweden rather than Melbourne because of the Australian quarantine laws.

Although Bach has emphasised that there should be a main organising city for the Games, with the attendant importance of the Athletes’ Village remaining, nevertheless this will allow a spread of sports across the host country. This may well reduce the chances of venues becoming ‘White Elephants’ as well as helping smaller countries, perhaps in combination, to stage the Games.

Such flexibility already exists for the Winter Games, but it has become necessary to reiterate this because of the few cities that have bid for 2022, only Beijing and Almaty now being candidates. Oslo and Munich both dropped out, one of the salient reasons being that the local populations feared the high cost of staging the event.

If one welcomes these suggestions, as well as the creation of an Olympic television channel and non-discrimination on sexual orientation in the Olympic Charter and host city contracts, nevertheless one feels still more flexibility should have shown in which sports are on the programme of the Summer and Winter Games.

It surely is about time that the IOC thought seriously about expanding the number of sports in the Winter Games to boost their international interest and, instead of restricting the events solely to those on snow and ice, allow certain indoor sports to be added to the programme. Sports such as weightlifting and table tennis, wrestling and judo do not need special facilities and only need an indoor arena, which future hosts of the Winter Games could readily provide.

Perhaps that will be given due consideration when a future IOC President launches his or her Olympic Agenda 2040.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th 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 · IOC · Olympics · Monaco · Thomas Bach

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