December 8, 2014 / 5:22 PM / 3 years ago

Sporting kingpins draw lines in the sand

MONACO (Reuters) - The most powerful figures in world sport were frantically drawing lines in the sand in Monaco on Monday, seeking to protect their sports from an Olympic axe set to be swung to make room for new spectacles.

No sooner had the proposal to scrap a limit of 28 sports at a Summer Games been accepted, than IOC members and sports chiefs were jockeying for position, with Tokyo known to be eager to feature baseball, hugely popular in Japan, to the 2020 Games.

While the scrapping of the limit was wonderful news for those sports who have been knocking on the Olympic door, including among others squash, karate, and baseball, there is a twist.

In order to make room for any newcomers, events of existing sports will have to be cut to ensure the Games do not grow beyond 10,500 athletes - a limit confirmed again by the International Olympic Committee on Monday.

Canadian IOC member Dick Pound, a former Olympic swimmer, was quick to throw out some suggestions.

When asked what sports the Olympics could live without, he told Reuters "Synchronised swimming... and maybe triple jump.

"Everybody has to share the load for the good of the Olympics."

Double Olympic gold medallist Sebastian Coe smiled when told of Pound's suggestion.

"I'll let Dick make observations about his own sport and I will make them about mine, and triple jump is a sacrosanct sport in track and field," Coe said.

But Coe, who last week launched his campaign to become president of world athletics' governing body, the IAAF, said he was not surprised track and field was already being mentioned.

"We have 47 different disciplines so it is inevitable," he told reporters.

"Does that mean that track and field will have to be vigilant about protecting, and where it chooses to protect, events and disciplines and the overall shape of the sports? Certainly yes, it does."

Coe also leapt to the defence of race walking which has been questioned in the past.

"Race walking is a sport that is covered in China, Russia, large parts of Central America, Southeast Asia, Italy and Spain. It is a very important part of our sport," he said.

The swimming federation's president Julio Maglione was less trenchant when asked about his sport's future.

"I don't know what will happen, this is the truth, it's a difficult moment," the Uruguayan said.

"I suppose that it's a problem we discuss in the future, we don't know what's going to happen with us, athletics, gymnastics."

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), however, was crackling with excitement.

"It's like when the manager calls you off the bench to pick up the bat and warm up, and the bases are loaded," president Riccardo Fraccari said. "All you want to do is swing for the fences."

Editing by Alan Baldwin

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