The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday unanimously passed 40 sweeping reforms proposed by president Thomas Bach that will allow the Olympics to be staged in two countries, add new sports and creates a new Games television channel.
The changes are part of a push by Bach to make the world’s biggest sporting event cheaper to stage and more attractive, as well as to bolster the credibility of the IOC.
The IOC will start immediate talks with organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeonchang, South Korea, and the Tokyo 2020 Games to see if they can make savings and possibly add sports.
Bach put his 40 Agenda 2020 proposals to a special session of the 104-member IOC in Monaco and all were passed on the first day of the two-day meeting.
The German official said that “never in my wildest dreams” had he imagined such an easy passage of the reforms.
“I know that for many members some of the recommendations were not easy to swallow,” he said,
The IOC allowed for future Games to be hosted by two cities, or two countries, for “sustainability” and “geography” reasons.
Bach sought the change to the Olympic Charter to reduce the cost of the Games and to allow smaller countries to bid.
However, he stressed there would have to be “exceptional” circumstances to move away from the single city formula used for the past century.
Bidding for the Games should become cheaper by cutting Olympic red tape and the IOC will pay more of the costs.
The IOC says it wants more talks with candidate cities on how the Olympics can be made more sustainable, particularly by using existing and temporary facilities.
Host cities will also be allowed to suggest a one-off extra sport to the program, which would have to be approved by the IOC.
However, 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, other sports will have to cut the number of medal events.
Organizers 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.
Squash is also pressing for a place at the Tokyo Olympics and World Squash Federation president Narayana Ramachandran said the vote had given the sport new hope.
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.
An Olympic television channel could be launched as early as next year after the IOC gave overwhelming backing to the plan.
Estimated to cost about 450 million euros (US$550 million) over seven years, the 24-hour Olympic channel will show sports — but not live coverage of the Games — and plunge into the burgeoning interactive market, seeking to appeal to the world’s youth.
Among other key decisions taken was to add “sexual orientation” in the Olympic Charter’s declaration on non-discrimination.
This is a boost to gay rights activists.
It also passed a new rule that will force IOC members to stand down at 80. That could mean controversial FIFA boss Sepp Blatter leaving the IOC in two years when he reaches the cutoff age.
The IOC also agreed to release annual financial reports and strengthen other ethics measures.
Bach has warned that the IOC had to bolster its credibility and transform the Olympics.
“If we do not address these challenges here and now we will be hit by them very soon,” Bach, who has pursued a reform agenda since becoming president in September last year, said at the official opening of the session on Sunday night.
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