IOC leaders are meeting this week to decide which sport to drop from the Olympic program and how to deal with the fallout from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
At a two-day IOC executive board meeting opening Tuesday, the IOC will also review preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi — less than a year away — and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, as well as select a short list of finalists for the 2018 Youth Olympics.
Modern pentathlon, a tradition-steeped contest invented by the founder of the modern Olympics, is expected to face close scrutiny when the board considers which of the current 26 summer Olympic sports to remove from the program of the 2020 Games. Taking out one sport will make way for a new sport to be added to the program later this year.
The executive board will review a report from the IOC program commission assessing each of the sports contested at last summer’s London Olympics.
The report analyzes more than three dozen criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member executive board will likely be influenced by political, emotional and sentimental factors.
Among the sports considered the most vulnerable is modern pentathlon, which was created for the Olympics by French baron Pierre de Coubertin. It has been on the program since the 1912 Stockholm Games, where George S. Patton — the future U.S. Army general — finished fifth.
Modern pentathlon combines fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting — the five skills required of a 19th century cavalry officer. The sport’s governing body, the UIPM, has been lobbying hard to protect its Olympic status.
UIPM President Klaus Schormann said his sport has broadened its appeal with a one-day format while also upholding the traditions of the past and the legacy of De Coubertin.
“The Olympic movement always needs history,” he told The Associated Press. “You cannot just say we look only at the future. You can have a future when you are stable on the basic part of history. We are continuing to develop, to renovate, to be innovative and creative. We are very proud of what we achieved so far and want to deliver this as well for the next generations in 2020.”
Taekwondo, the Korean martial art that has been in the Olympics since 2000, has also been mentioned as being among the sports in potential danger. The sport introduced a new scoring system in London to eliminate judging controversies and the gold medals, previously dominated by South Koreans, were spread among eight different nations.
The future of wrestling, badminton and table tennis have also been the subject of speculation.
The last sports removed from the Olympics were baseball and softball, voted out by the IOC in 2005 and off the program since the 2008 Beijing Games. Joining the program at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro will be golf and rugby.
Baseball and softball have combined forces to seek inclusion in 2020, competing against karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu. Whichever sport is dropped Tuesday will join those seven vying for the single opening in 2020.
The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC general assembly in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
This week, the IOC will also discuss the crisis in cycling following the doping revelations that led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from elite sports. Armstrong was also stripped by the IOC of his bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games, though the medal has not yet been returned.
The international cycling federation, the UCI, has been in open conflict with the World Anti-Doping Agency over the terms of any “truth and reconciliation” process offering amnesties to those who come forward with information. UCI President Pat McQuaid has written all IOC members seeking their support. He also is reportedly seeking help to fund the process.
The IOC appears unlikely to get directly involved, seeking instead to encourage the UCI and WADA to work together.
“The IOC could maybe play a role as a kind of facilitator,” IOC vice-president Thomas Bach told the AP.
On another matter, the IOC will reduce the field of candidates for the 2018 Summer Youth Games. The five bidders are Buenos Aires; Glasgow, Scotland; Guadalajara, Mexico; Medellin, Colombia; and Rotterdam, Netherlands.
At least two are expected to make the list of finalists, with the winner to be announced in June. The first Youth Olympics were held in 2010 in Singapore, with the 2014 edition taking place in Nanjing, China.