Flag football, baseball/softball, cricket, lacrosse and squash, the five additional sports proposed by the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics organisers for their edition of the Games, have been reviewed and accepted “as a package” by the IOC Executive Board on the second and final day of its meeting at Trident Hotel in Mumbai, India.
The proposal will now be put forward for ratification at the IOC session on Monday. Meanwhile, among the three core sports that were in 2021 left out of the “initial programme” for the 2028 Games, two, weightlifting and modern pentathlon, have fulfilled what was required of them to secure their places, while the decision on boxing remains on hold as the sport currently has no IOC-recognised international federation.
AMERICAN SPORTS CULTURE
The IOC President Thomas Bach said the proposal of the LA28 organisers was accepted because: “These sports are fully in line with the American sports culture. They will showcase an iconic American sports to the world, while bringing at the same time international sports to the United States.”
“Their inclusion will on the other hand allow the Olympic Movement to engage with new athletes and fan communities in the US and globally,” Bach added.
Regarding the inclusion of cricket, Bach was asked at the press conference how he “managed to persuade LA to accept cricket” as it is not a big sport in America, and what it means for the IOC.
“I can maybe reveal a secret that it did not take anything to convince them. The first idea came up and in the dinner I shared with Casey Wasserman (Chairman of LA 2028) on the occassion of the Athletics World Championships in Eugene last year and there Casey saw already the great potential and was highlighting it himself so there was not much work to do, if any.”
Bach explained that the growing popularity of cricket around the world, especially the T20 format, as well as the growing Indian community in the US make the inclusion of cricket very attractive for LA and the Olympic Movement. Following the ratification of the IOC Session in Mumbai, cricket would be returning to the Olympics after a 128-year absence. Cricket was played at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, when just two countries, England and France, played the lone match.
“This is a win-win situation. The Olympic Games will give cricket the global stage to grow beyond the traditional cricket countries and regions
FLAG FOOTBALL, LACROSSE AND SQUASH
When asked about what impact the inclusion of flag football, lacrosse – which last appeared in 1908 – and squash would have, Bach replied: “We have seen these three sports at the World Games and as you know the IOC has a close cooperation and an MoU with the World Games and all these three sports had very successful performances at the World Games. On top of it they are reflecting different areas of American culture and sports culture. If you look at lacrosse, it’s the sport, if I may say, of the First Nations of the US. Squash has had significant growth in the US in the recent past and flag football is also enjoying a growing popularity, in particular among girls and women – because with flag football you’re avoiding some of the challenges and injuries faced in American football.”
Flag football, a variant of American football played as a five-on-five non-contact sport where, instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team must remove a flag or flag belt from the ball carrier to end a down. The 2022 World Games took place in the United States – in Birmingham, Alabama.
This concept of Olympic hosts proposing additional sports solely for their edition of the Games was introduced as part of the new process of establishing the Olympic programme, which was implemented in line with Olympic Agenda 2020 (adopted in December 2014).
The aim of the reform is “to enhance the popularity of the Games while ensuring that the numbers of athletes, and the cost and complexity of the event, remain manageable”.
Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee was the first to propose new sports and included five new sports for its edition of the Summer Games – surfing, karate, sports climbing, skateboarding and baseball/softball.
For Paris 2024, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved again, and breaking will make its Olympic debut. Skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were included as core sports in the LA 2028 programme, but breaking did not make the cut.
The IOC Sports Director, Kit McConnell, explained that with the inclusion of the five additional sports for LA28, four of which are team sports, the IOC athlete quota of 10,500 will definitely be surpassed, however, the OPC will work on ensuring that the final number remains reasonable and below the overall quota for Tokyo 2020.
McConnell said: “It is a package and the package fits together fantastically well in terms of target audiences, the types of sports, reaching out to different parts of the community around the country.
“In terms of the quota itself we have to be very clear that it is a package put forward by the Organising Committee for the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 alone, so it is for that edition of the Games and doesn’t necessarily set the precedent for the future.
“Tokyo was the first time we had the OCOG propose sports and a team sport, baseball/softball, was part of that, and the whole package was above 10,500.
“In Paris because the package was comprised of four individual sports with relatively low quotas, that was inside the 10,500 so both of those reflected the context of the package.”
The programme of events and athlete quotas for LA28 will be finalised after Paris 2024.
Sixteen new disciplines were proposed by the International Federations with sports on the LA28 programme and following a holistic review only one was accepted. A critical consideration in the discipline review was maximising venue-sharing opportunities and leveraging existing, world-class venues and infrastructure in LA and the US.
The only change made to the LA28 discipline programme compared to Paris 2024, is the replacement of lightweight double sculls (men 2x and women 2x) events with beach sprint rowing, a format of the coastal rowing discipline, included on the Olympic programme for the first time. According to the IOC, the inclusion of beach sprint rowing is the outcome of a decade-long only development of coastal rowing with the active support of rowing communities across the world.
The LA28 discipline programme has been finalised by the IOC EB and will not require any approval by the IOC Session.
MODERN PENTATHLON AND WEIGHTLIFTING
The place of modern pentathlon, a multi-discipline sport created by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Olympic movement, which has been a core Olympic event since 1912, was in danger after episodes of horse cruelty at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
However, the UIPM’s decision to replace riding with obstacle racing has now been acknowledged by the IOC EB. President Bach emphasised that “without the exchange of riding with obstacle racing the sport would not have been included in the programme.”
For weightlifting, which was plagued by its “historical incidence of doping”, the IOC is impressed with how the International Weightlifting Federation has tackled the issue by delegating its anti-doping management to the International Testing Agency and its sanctioning to the Court of Arbitration for Sport at least until the end of the year 2028.
“We could see their really robust anti-doping programme in place addressing our concerns.” Bach added.
Following the expulsion of the International Boxing Association (IBA) from the Olympic Movement, there is currently no international boxing body affiliated with the IOC and as a result the IOC EB will decide on boxing’s inclusion in the LA28 sports programme at a later date.
“We want boxing on the programme, we have no problem with boxing, we have no problem with the boxers, we have just a huge problem with regard to the governing body,” Bach reiterated.
Credit: AIPS Media