Sports on the line for Olympic test
April 26, 2005
The big question of what constitutes an Olympic sport will come to a head in July when the International Olympic Committee votes on its favorites for the 2012 event. Paris, New York and London are on the bidding list.
Thereafter, all the winter and summer games will also be decided, as the IOC sets a 28-sport limit.
A two-thirds majority is required to be admitted as an Olympic sport.
In a region known for its zealous Olympians, hopefuls and enthusiasts, most in Tahoe viewed the maneuver as a business movement for the Olympics. The criteria includes global popularity, ticket sales, attendance figures and televisions ratings.
Some pointed to the advent of the “Dream Team” – led by basketball greats Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird – as an example of the Olympics driven by television coverage and ratings.
“It comes down to the broadcast rights. I think the bottom line in terms of the Olympics nowadays is it’s based on revenue coming back including TV contracts,” said Curtis Fong, who organizes cycling events out of Tahoe. “Look at Lance Armstrong. He’s making millions.”
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Fong isn’t necessarily concerned about cycling leaving the lineup of the summer games.
“Enough people are interested in cycling,” he said.
The Winter Games shouldn’t lose alpine skiing either.
“I’d be really surprised if that in a couple seconds they’d even think about not having skiing as part of the Olympics – it’s one of the oldest sports,” two-time Olympic skier Jonna Mendes of South Lake Tahoe said Tuesday. “It’s not as popular in the states, but skiing has worldwide appeal.”
Mendes is convinced the IOC may re-evaluate summer sports more than winter if anything because the latter is smaller. And it may be a good idea to examine what works.
“(The lineups) have stayed the same for so long. Everything you do has to have change,” she said.
Katja Dahl, spokeswoman for Squaw Valley USA, believes the IOC may need to make changes to keep the sports and coverage of them exciting – like the latest parachute skiing off cliffs.
“Maybe they’ve become too big of an event to manage,” she said. “I sincerely doubt they’d get rid of a major skiing event.”
Agreeing was Terry Orr, a U.S. Ski Team doctor.
“It’s a scary thing if they go off TV ratings, because maybe it’s not an accurate picture of what people like to see, but it makes sense of how they view it. Alpine skiing’s popularity is definitely solid throughout the world,” he said.
Many feel the move reflects the evolution of the Olympic Games. Snowboarding was added in Park City, Utah, in 2002, a year the torch meandered through the South Shore and around Lake Tahoe.
Boardercross snowboarding will make the 2006 lineup in Italy. China and Whistler will host the Games in 2008 and 2010.
Chris Proctor, a Tahoe Fracture physical therapist, said even though snowboarding doesn’t have the tenure of other sports, including curling, it does have the advantage of access. Spectators can see the event in its duration.
And Proctor believes viewership goes a long way with the IOC.
“They started to think about what plays best on TV instead of what’s traditional,” he said.
Personal trainer Cassandra Chandler wants to see more focus on the athletes.
“In a sense, you see so many sports added. For some, you don’t understand the reason,” Chandler said, adding she’d like body building to be added – perhaps instead of synchronized swimming. “I think there are too many.”
Don Borges, South Tahoe High School athletic director, wants the IOC to consider venues where the athletes can train. He said the action by the IOC doesn’t seem too dramatic because occasionally there are demonstration sports established on a trial basis.
Triathlete and real estate agent Jason Schoonover may be all for that.
“I might want to see different sports. Sports change so much. With new technology, the equipment changes. People are running faster. Sports are bigger and better,” he said, while training for a triathlon by swimming laps in the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center pool.
-The Associated Press contributed to this report.
A sampling of sports of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece: skeet shooting, archery, triathlon, boxing, sailing, synchronized diving, table tennis, football (soccer), hockey, handball, taekwondo, modern pentathlon, shot put, swimming (many variations), track & field, badminton, beach volleyball, whitewater kayaking, fencing, equestrian, gymnastics (many variations), weight lifting, basketball, tennis, baseball, cycling, water polo, trampoline, skulling