10 Dec 2014

Sporting kingpins draw lines in the sand

11:31 am on 10 December 2014

The most powerful figures in world sport have been frantically drawing lines in the sand, seeking to protect their sports from an Olympic axe set to be swung to make room for new spectacles.

Jamaican Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt.

Jamaican Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

As soon as the proposal to scrap a limit of 28 sports at a Summer Games was accepted, IOC members and sports chiefs began jockeying for position, with Tokyo known to be eager to feature baseball, hugely popular in Japan, to the 2020 Games.

While the scrapping of the limit was good news for those sports who have been knocking on the Olympic door, including among others squash, karate, and baseball, there is a twist.

In order to make room for any newcomers, events of existing sports will have to be cut to ensure the Games do not grow beyond 10,500 athletes - a limit confirmed again by the International Olympic Committee.

Canadian IOC member Dick Pound, a former Olympic swimmer, was quick to throw out some suggestions.

When asked what sports the Olympics could live without, he told Reuters "Synchronised swimming... and maybe triple jump.

"Everybody has to share the load for the good of the Olympics."

Double Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe smiled when told of Pound's suggestion.

"I'll let Dick make observations about his own sport and I will make them about mine, and triple jump is a sacrosanct sport in track and field," Coe says.

But Coe, who last week launched his campaign to become president of world athletics' governing body, the IAAF, says he's not surprised track and field was already being mentioned.

"We have 47 different disciplines so it is inevitable," he says. "Does that mean that track and field will have to be vigilant about protecting, and where it chooses to protect, events and disciplines and the overall shape of the sports? Certainly yes, it does."

Coe also leapt to the defence of race walking which has been questioned in the past.

"Race walking is a sport that is covered in China, Russia, large parts of Central America, Southeast Asia, Italy and Spain. It is a very important part of our sport," he says.