Decision on new sports for LA 2028 Olympics delayed indefinitely: USOPC Chief

Fans of as many as nine sports vying to be included at the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games will have to wait longer to learn whether they should book their tickets to California.

WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup USA vs. TPE July 11, 2023 ©WBSC
WBSC Women’s Softball World Cup USA vs. TPE July 11, 2023 ©WBSC

On Thursday United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland told journalists on a conference call that the discussion on which sports will be recommended to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board has been delayed with no target date set.

“That discussion has been delayed and postponed, at this point indefinitely. As those conversations continue we don’t yet have a date for the future decisions and discussions,” Hirshland said.

Hirshland said she has not been involved in discussions between the LA 2028 organizing committee and IOC officials, but she does play a role as a member of the IOC Program Commission that is charged with making recommendations to the Executive Board.

“As part of hosting the Games the organizing committee takes on the responsibility of collaborating in a review and thinking about new sports for the program,” she explained.

“This work has been ongoing for some time now and the original timing for the recommendations to be considered was by the IOC Executive Board last week.”

But the IOC abruptly canceled a press conference that was planned to respond to questions about the the new sports recommendations last Friday. The media relations team explained that the necessary discussions had not been complete. The IOC had hoped to have the recommendations accepted by the membership at a Session set to take place in Mumbai, India October 15 – but those plans are now at risk.

Sports that have approached LA 2028 to be added to the program include breaking, kickboxing, karate, squash, motorsports – and team sports cricket, baseball/softball, flag football and lacrosse. There is no limit on how many options LA can name, but organizers must adhere to the overall quota of 10,500 athletes – down from the 11,400 that participated at Tokyo 2020. Those numbers work against the inclusion of team sports.

Cricket is seen as a huge opportunity for the Olympics and the International Cricket Council (ICC) has developed an Olympic-sized T20 format that is gaining traction. Including the most popular sport in India could bolster dwindling broadcast revenue for the IOC and raise the popularity of the Olympic Games in the world’s most populous nation.

Naming additional sports to the program has been considered an opportunity for the host nation to showcase regionally popular pastimes and baseball/softball had been considered a home run for inclusion. America’s most successful pro league, the National Football League (NFL) backs flag football which could help drive the success of the LA 2028 Games. Lacrosse, the indigenous sport that is popular among colleges and universities will likely not make the list, falling behind the other two.

There are developing pro cricket leagues in the United States, but interest in the sport is limited and including it in the program would benefit the IOC more than LA 2028.

This possible impasse might be the cause of the delayed discussions. Including more than two team sports would likely push the number of athletes over quota and add costs to the organization of the Games.

“The program commission has been operating under a set of principles, one of those gender equity and another one being the 10,500 [athlete] limit,” Hirshland told reporters.

“I don’t know what the discussions are in terms of what might cause that 10,500 cap to move. I do expect that as resolution comes to play we’ll have a little bit of visibility as to whether there is motivation or a proposal to move that number or not.”

The 10,500 athlete quota was recently cemented in the Olympic Charter as part of IOC President Thomas Bach’s Agenda 2020, a plan to make the Games more sustainable. Along with membership approval at an IOC Session, a lot of politicking would have to happen to reverse this important policy.

Along with the team sports, the dance sport breaking that will debut in Paris next year is also expected to be added to the program. Breaking can be staged in a small venue, even in an outdoor urban area, and involves a limited number of athletes.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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