SBD/Issue 55/Olympics

Three Sports Buy Some Time, As IOC Postpones Decision

The IOC "voted resoundingly [Friday] to postpone a decision on whether to cut baseball, softball and modern pentathlon from the Olympic program until after the 2004 Summer Games in Athens," according to Amy Shipley of the WASHINGTON POST. The organization's members in attendance at the meetings in Mexico City voted 111-2 with four abstentions to postpone the decision, and "none of the 39 members who spoke supported cutting the sports." U.S. Modern Pentathlon head Robert Marbut called the vote a "big win for all three sports." Shipley added the move "likely means the sports will be included" in the '08 Games in Beijing, "as there will be little time to take action after Athens." The decision "also seems to reduce the chances that other sports will be added for Beijing." Golf and rugby have been mentioned as possible additions (WASHINGTON POST, 11/30). IOC U.S. VP Anita DeFrantz said the decision to postpone the vote was "'a serious wake-up call to all the federations' to help keep the Games manageable." DeFrantz "believes if the matter was put to a vote, the three sports would have remained in the Games" (CO Springs GAZETTE, 11/30). In N.Y., Tim Weiner wrote the decision has "only one immediate impact: it will be impossible for new sports, like rugby and golf, ... to be part of the Olympics for the foreseeable future" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/30). IOC spokesperson Emmanuelle Moreau said that the organization will "reconsider dropping the sports when it meets in Singapore in 2005 to pick the host city" for 2012. N.Y. is the only official candidate so far for those Games (Rick Westhead, BLOOMBERG NEWS, 11/29).

Rogge Being Flexible

A DEFEAT FOR ROGGE? In L.A., Alan Abrahamson wrote, "In the nuanced world of Olympic politics, ... much was made clear Friday — in particular the emerging style and political durability of [IOC President] Jacques Rogge." Rogge "showed Friday his willingness to be flexible." Rogge: "I don't see any political defeat in creating a system of periodic review (of the sports) after each Olympic Games." But Abrahamson wrote the "jarring note to so many Olympic insiders" is that the "spectacle that unfolded Friday would have been unthinkable during the [Juan Antonio] Samaranch years." Samaranch "would not have allowed a controversial proposal ... to become public if he did not know the outcome of the vote before the proposal became public" (L.A. TIMES, 11/30). USA TODAY's Vicki Michaelis writes Rogge is "intent on limiting the Games' size and scope. He wants to keep costs down so that a majority of countries can afford to host an Olympics, keeping the Games truly global." Michaelis, on the IOC examining the elimination of sports: "Notice has been served to officials in all sports, especially those in the Summer Olympics, which are much larger and more costly to stage than the Winter Olympics." Int'l Softball Federation President Don Porter: "Nobody's permanent, unless it might be track and field, swimming and gymnastics." The IOC's commission looking at ways to streamline the Games cited "an expert study that calculated that one additional athlete at an Olympics costs an extra $30,000" (USA TODAY, 12/2). While the AP called the postponement a "defeat" for Rogge, Rogge said, "I don't think I misjudged anything" (AP, 12/1). In Dallas, Kevin Blackistone writes, "If Rogge was really as interested in making the Olympics more appealing and manageable and easier to police, he would not have targeted the peculiar sport of modern pentathlon and the growing international game on baseball and softball. He would've gone after anything on ice involving contestants in pancake makeup and sequins" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/2).

MLB All-Stars Needed To Keep Baseball
In The Olympics?

WHAT SHOULD BASEBALL DO? Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady said, "So far, [MLB] is part of the problem, not the solution. And if the Olympics is so important to the [U.S.], they can show up by bringing their top players." Gilady said that MLB Exec VP/Operations Sandy Alderson "had planned to speak" in Mexico City, but he was "advised to stay in his hotel room." One IOC member, on Alderson: "Who is he to tell us how important the Olympics are when his players don't want to come? Do you know the meaning of the word 'chutzpah?'" (NEWSDAY, 11/30). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton writes, "If baseball has serious Olympic intentions, it needs to persuade the U.S. major leagues to shut down for seven or eight days in midseason, just as the NHL did in 1998 and 2002" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/2).

KEEPING IT ON THE LEVEL: The L.A. TIMES' Abrahamson also reported that on Thursday, "with only six of the 114 delegates affirmatively voting to reinstate" free visits for IOC members to bid cities, the IOC "decided to keep in force the ban on such visits it had enacted" in '99. The vote "signaled a victory" for Rogge. Meanwhile, Rogge "made it plain that the IOC is now looking to 'consolidate' after a '20-year-period of uninterrupted growth.'" Rogge also said the IOC's financial reserves remain "strong," at $140M, up $27M over the last year. But "in light of terrorism concerns and the current worldwide economic downturn," the IOC has "decided to increase its financial reserves" from $140M to $192M "as soon as possible." The money "would keep the IOC afloat if an edition of the Games was partially or wholly cancelled" (L.A. TIMES, 11/29). USA TODAY's Michaelis wrote the vote to maintain the ban on free visits means N.Y. will "have to rely heavily on technical evaluations and word-of-mouth to publicize its bid" for the 2012 Games (USA TODAY, 11/29).

ATHENS: USA TODAY's Michaelis noted the aforementioned $52M increase in the IOC's reserves and writes the "catch-22" is that most of the $52M would come from TV rights for the Athens Games. If the '04 Games are cancelled, the IOC "would come up short in operating funds." Meanwhile, the IOC has received quotes of $4-6M for $200M worth of insurance for a cancellation (USA TODAY, 11/29). The WASHINGTON POST's Shipley wrote Athens officials are "more optimistic these days," as they say that they will "do what no other Olympic host can: present Athens' extensive history — actual pieces of it — with care and grace. Not only will television cameras pan the Acropolis, the Roman Agora, Hadrian's Arch and the other well-known monuments of Athens, but just about every other significant artifact discovered while digging or bulldozing will be displayed near the site of the excavation" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/1). The AP reported that most of the tickets for '04 will be $30 or less "in a bid to attract Greeks." Of the 5.3 million tickets to be sold, 3.6 million, or 68%, will cost $10-30. The top price for a sports event will be $300. Tickets to the Opening Ceremony will cost $100-950, and $50-750 for the Closing Ceremony (AP, 11/27).

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