21 December, 2014

Is the IOC trying to amputate athletics?

I have chanced upon a recent entry in a greek site on athletics with a report from a meeting in Monaco where the future of Olympic Games was discussed. (Just in case you are speaking greek here is the link to this excellent site: stivoz). According to that article Dick Pound had suggested that synchronised swimming and triple jump be eliminated from the olympic program. (If the name does not ring a bell, Mr. Pound is a former IOC vice president and ex-president of WADA. He was a swimmer, finalist at the Rome, 1960, Olympics and gold medalist at the 1962 Commonwealth Games. According to Wikipedia he has found himself at the centre of several controversies).

Sebastian Coe, IAAF vice-president, has reacted immediately saying that Mr. Pound should limit himself to suggestions concerning his discipline and let the athletics people take care of their sport, adding that triple jump is a most popular field event. He also commented on the recurring suggestion that racewalking be excluded from the Games saying that this discipline is part of the history of Athletics and most popular in a substantial part of the world. Now, I have written in the most explicit way what I think about racewalking. I would not shed tears if racewalking were to disappear. However I have great trouble understanding how triple jump came to be a candidate for elimination. 

Caterina Ibargüen of Colombia, the current world champion, 
will not have a chance to win an Olympic gold medal
 if triple jump is eliminated

But wait, it gets worse. In a follow-up to the first article it was reported that five, yes, five (5), events were under consideration for elimination from the olympic program. The five events are: 20000 m men’s racewalking, 10000 m, 200 m, shot put and triple jump. I must say that I do not understand the logic of such proposals. I could go as far as tolerating the elimination of the 10000 m since the event is quite similar to the 5000 m (although olympic 5 and 10 km doubles are greeted as quite exceptional events, of historical value). But 200 m? The par excellence olympic race? Have the IOC people forgotten that the 200 m is the most ancient olympic event? And if the argument is that the winner of 200 m is quite often the same as the one of 100 m (but how about the Olympiads where   this is not the case) what is their argument concerning shot put and triple jump? In fact, the latter is considered to be the least endangered event given its popularity. Most probably Mr. Pound just pounced upon the first field event that crossed his mind. 

But this leaves us with shot put. If this event were eliminated a large fraction of throwers would just quit. Most shot putters are specialists of just this discipline and the ones who do throw also the discus do not manage to excel in this second event. After all the physio-anatomical requirements of the two disciplines are quite different. Do we wish to sacrifice a field event that has been honoured by the presence of such giants as Ralph Rose, Parry O’Brien,  Werner Günthör or Valerie Adams? An event where we have seen not one but two style revolutions?

Just to make things more ridiculous it was argued that since the decathlon and heptathlon contain both the shot put and the later also 200 m, the two events will have a presence in the Games. Sure! Seeing girl heptathletes throw the shot at barely beyond 10 m is “almost” the same as seeing 20 m throws. And, yes, I know that Austra Skujyte, the women’s decathlon world record holder, has a shot put record of 17.86 m and is regularly competing in this discipline. And, yes, I know that Dafne Schippers is not only a 200 m specialist but also a top heptathlete while the famous Jackie Joyner-Kersee is not the only the best heptathlete ever but an excellent 200 m runner as well. But these examples do not change the argument that each event needs its specialists and sacrificing top-class athletes on deceptive arguments of tele-visibility is to my eyes a sacrilege.

No comments:

Post a Comment