MONACO // Two countries will be allowed to co-host Olympic Games and will have the power to add new sports as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted in sweeping changes yesterday to the world’s biggest sporting event.
The measures are part of a campaign by IOC president Thomas Bach to make the Summer and Winter Olympics cheaper to stage and more attractive to the public as the organisation battles increased competition for audiences.
Bach has proposed 40 reforms, known as Agenda 2020, to be voted on at a special session of the 104-member IOC.
The first measures were unanimously passed and Bach called them “a major step forward in the organisation of the Olympic Games”.
The votes allowed for future Games to be hosted by two cities, or two countries, for “sustainability” and “geography” reasons.
Bidding for the Games should be cheaper, since the number of presentations will be cut and the IOC will pay more of the costs.
In a bid to increase the attraction of the Games, host cities will be allowed to suggest a one-off extra sport, which would have to be approved by the IOC.
But the number of athletes will be capped at 10,500 for the Summer Olympics and 2,900 for the Winter Games, which means that if new sports are added, others could be eliminated.
Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Games may be among the first to profit from the change. They are pressing for the inclusion of baseball and softball.
There were 26 sports at the London Olympics in 2012, but Franco Carraro, who led the working group on sports, said there could be up to 30 sports at future Games.
Bach warned that the IOC had to bolster its credibility and transform the Olympics with “important and far-reaching changes” because of a major shift in attitudes toward the Games.
“If we do not address these challenges here and now, we will be hit by them very soon,” Bach said.
The decision to allow joint hosting is a revolution.
Sports such as football traditionally have been spread across several venues, but these have been exceptional cases.
Bach sought the change to the Olympic charter to reduce the cost of the Games and to allow smaller countries to bid. The IOC says it wants more talks with candidate cities on how the event can be made more sustainable. There will be a new emphasis on using existing and temporary facilities.
It calls on candidate cities “to present a project that fits their sporting, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs”.
Bach will also announce the launch of an Olympic television channel.
Bach, an Olympic fencing gold medallist, has pursued a reform agenda since becoming president in September 2013.
All 40 proposals are expected to be passed, though questions were asked in the debate about how the Olympic leadership would preserve the Games’ “atmosphere” if events are split.
Bach has said that once the votes are over, the IOC will immediately start talks with organisers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea, and the Tokyo 2020 Games, to see if savings can be made.
The 2012 London Olympics was hailed as a success and the Summer Games remains a big-ticket item with US channel NBC, which will pay US$7.75 billion (Dh28.5bn) for the broadcasting rights to the next six Games. Bach said the IOC had signed sponsorship and television deals worth $10 billion in 10 months this year.
But the Winter Olympics is slumbering. Russia spent more than $50 billion on the Sochi Games this year and there are only two candidates, Beijing and the Kazakh city of Almaty, for the 2022 Games.
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