Ousted summer sports take their case to Winter Olympics

PARIS (AP) – As the organizers of the Turin Olympics brace themselves for the opening of the Winter Games, the future of Summer Olympic sports are headlining the agenda in the northern Italian city next week. Only six months after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members decided to throw softball and baseball out of the Olympic program from 2012 on, the two sports, backed by the Association of Summer Olympic International Sports Federations (ASOIF), are trying to have the vote reversed. Millions of dollars in television revenue are at stake for the sports. Softball president Don Porter will argue his case in Turin. «We’ve talked to many people who support reconsideration of women’s softball for the 2012 Olympics. Now we need the re-vote to solidify our reinstatement,» said Porter. But the two sports face a tough task to get the 115-odd IOC members not only to agree to have another vote but to put the sports back on the program. Softball and baseball need to get one-third of the IOC rank and file to agree to put their reinstatement on the agenda for next week’s Session and many senior members doubt they will manage it. «Many members have great sympathy for the two sports and would like to see them back in the Games but for the IOC to reverse a session vote six months after taking it would be ridiculous,» one member told AFP this week. «It makes more sense that the two sports wait until the next program review in 2008,» he added. The decision to expel the two sports in Singapore last year caught everyone by surprise. IOC President Jacques Rogge wants to see other sports have a chance to compete in the Olympics but his insistence that there cannot be more than 28 sports in the program means that someone has to go out if a «new» sport is to come in. But although two spots are now available in the Olympic program the rank and file refused to replace baseball and softball in Singapore – reducing the 2012 London Olympics to 26 sports. The Singapore vote has put ASOIF on a collision course with Rogge and the IOC’s ruling executive board. ASOIF has challenged the Singapore vote and has branded the current program review as unacceptable. In a survey carried out among ASOIF members after the expulsion of softball and baseball the whole decision-making process came under attack. In a list of conclusions ASOIF claims that, while the process seemed fair, the final outcome did not. The final decision did not reflect nor seem connected to the evaluation. Also, while respecting the IOC’s right and duty to evaluate the sports in the program the methodology was not considered appropriate. The current system for defining the program by voting sport-by-sport is unacceptable and must be changed, while Olympic sports should not have to be reviewed every four years, the evaluation noted. It added that the IOC executive board must take a greater role and responsibility in making the recommendations to the session regarding the program. Few members believe the executive board will decide next week to urge members to vote for the reinstatement of softball and baseball at the Turin session.

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