Tuesday 6 October 2009

Track events to be removed from the Olympics

I read today that the UCI is planning to remove some of the endurance events from the track program in London in 2012. According to http://www.cyclingnews.com/ the plan is to remove the individual pursuit, the points race and the Madison from the Olympics and replace them with a programme which would comprise of  the men's and women's individual sprints, the team sprint, the keirin, the team pursuit and a new omnium event. The omnium would be made up of a flying 200m, a points race, a scratch race, an individual pursuit and possibly some other events. The reason given is to "bring parity to the men's and women's programmes, with five events for each".

What are they playing at? Is this a UCI idea or, more likely, does it come from the IOC? Is this all part of the incessant drive to move the Olympics away from the vision of Baron De Coubertin and towards the vision, and money, of the Murdochs of the world?

Ironically at a time when Sky is coming on board to sponsor cycling (a development I'm not sure I'm all that comfortable with, but that's another story)  the Olympics are becoming indistinguishable from any night of the week on Sky Sports.

When Baron De Coubertin formed the idea that “organised sport can create moral and social strength” did he envisage billionaire golfer Tiger Woods taking a break from his Major targets to have a bit of fun at the Olympics, or the multi-millionaires of the NBA bitching and sniping at each other in the name of sport while on a break from Monnday Night Basketball, or whatever it's called. Do these "stars" really represent the Olympic ideal, more than a relative unknown Pursuiter, like say& David O'Loughlin, who has ploughed a lonely, and underfunded, road to achieve a dream for it's own sake.

Is the downgrading of cycling really about making room for the cash cows, the ratings grabbers? Is that why the events that take a bit of time and understanding are being done away with in favour of the fast, action packed sprint events?

Gender equality is the ostensible reason being quoted by Pat McQuaid for this move. It might be news to Rebecca Romero that her pursuit gold in Beijing wasn't in "parity" with Bradley Wiggins' one, or Petra Rossner's in Barcelona wasn't on a par with Chris Boardman's, or Marianne Vos didn't win a points medal to match Joan Llaneras one in 2008. Apart from the Madison all of the events facing the axe are already there for both sexes. Does this mean we'll have mens synchronised swimming and men performing gymnastic routines with ribbons in the name of parity? Will there be an equal number of mares and stallions in the equestrian arena?

Or is there another agenda at work? It has been an open secret that there has been tension between the Olympic movement and cycling for some time. Is that why cycling seems to be losing status and events while swimming seems to have every possible distance in every possible event Games after Games. Swimming had, I believe, 32 events at the last Games. Now I'm not arguing that swimming should lose any events. It caters for equally dedicated and largely unsung athletes. What I am saying is that some sports appear more equal than others.

So please, keep the real sportsmen and women and ditch the peacocks. That's what the Olympics really should be about.

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