IOC board mulls 2 new sports for 2016 Olympics
BERLIN: International Olympic Committee leaders met Thursday to decide which two sports to recommend for inclusion in the 2016 Summer Games.
The IOC executive board was considering a list of seven sports: baseball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby, softball and squash.
The 15-member board was scheduled to vote by secret ballot to cut the field to two sports, which will be submitted for ratification by the full 106-member IOC assembly in Copenhagen in October.
Golf and rugby sevens — a faster version of the more established 15-a-side game — were considered the favorites, but IOC members said there was no overwhelming consensus going into the meeting and anything was possible. Softball appeared to have the best outside shot at making the cut.
"We hope to be able to make a unanimous decision, but it will be hard to find a common denominator," executive board member Gerhard Heiberg said.
The board planned to vote over several rounds, with the sport receiving the fewest votes eliminated each time until two winners emerged.
The board was also considering a series of proposals for the 2012 London Olympics, including the addition of women's boxing, mixed doubles in tennis and more 50-meter events in swimming. Boxing is the only summer Olympic sport without female competitors.
Leaders of the seven sports bidding for 2016 inclusion made presentations to the IOC board in June in Lausanne, Switzerland, and have continued to lobby extensively. The attributes of each bidding sport were contained in a report by the IOC program commission which was being reviewed by the board Thursday before the vote.
Golf was played at the 1900 Paris Olympics and 1904 St. Louis Games. The sport's backers say bringing the game back into the Olympics would help it develop worldwide, noting many governments only fund Olympic sports.
Tiger Woods and other top players have indicated they would play in the Olympics if golf gets the nod from the IOC.
"Golf is a truly global sport and it should have been in the Olympics a while ago," Woods said Tuesday. "If it does get in, it would be great for golf and some of the other small countries that are now emerging in golf."
Rugby, which was last played at the 1924 Olympics in the full format, hopes to return in the short-format 7-a-side version for both men and women.
Softball and baseball are seeking a return after being voted off the program for the 2012 London Games. Attempted reinstatements were rejected by the IOC in 2006.
"We hope it's not `three strikes and you're out,'" said International Softball Federation president Don Porter.
Softball, a women's event which debuted at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, has focused on spreading the sport among youth and women in the Muslim world and Africa, and staying free of doping scandals. It has offered to organize a men's Olympic tournament as well if readmitted by the IOC.
Baseball — which has failed to bring top players to the Olympics due to a scheduling clash with the U.S. major leagues_ is offering a shortened five-day, eight-team format intended to ensure the participation of big-name stars.