IOC backs five new sports for Los Angeles 2028 and plans to readmit modern pentathlon and weightlifting – but boxing left on hold

Five new sports recommended by the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic organizing committee (LA28) were approved by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Executive Board (EB) Friday in Mumbai, India ahead of an all-members Session that will need to rubberstamp the decision next week.

Flag Football at the Birmingham 2022 World Games
Flag Football at the Birmingham 2022 World Games (Photo: IFAF)

The recommendation follows the announcement of LA28’s choices finalized only last week.

Baseball-softball, cricket, flag football, lacrosse and squash will now likely feature at the LA 2028 Games and “will allow the Olympic Movement to engage with new athlete and fan communities in the US and globally,” IOC President Thomas Bach said at a press conference Friday.

Adding cricket, a sport with very limited appeal in the United States, was seen as a contentious issue in the negotiations behind LA28’s proposal. Cricket, wildly popular in India, is seen as a lucrative opportunity for the IOC as it tries to build a following in the world’s most populous nation and benefit from more lucrative broadcast and sponsorship deals. LA28 was interested in working with America’s most valuable pro sports league that has two franchises in the city – the NFL – with flag football. Locally iconic sports baseball and softball and the indigenous lacrosse was also a clear opportunity.

But Bach denied there was any friction in making cricket part of the plans.

“It didn’t take anything to convince [LA28],” Bach claimed.

“In a dinner I shared with [LA28 chair] Casey Wasserman on the occasion of the Athletics World Championships in Eugene last year – Casey already saw the great potential [of cricket] and was highlighting it himself.

“So there was not much work to do, if any.”

In order to stay close to the 10,500 athlete quota set by the IOC across all Olympic Games, the four team sports will follow a six-team tournament with cricket staging the lighter T20 version and lacrosse featuring sixes.

IOC sports director Kit McConnell balked at suggestions that adding four team sports could overload the LA 28 quota instead suggesting “the package fits together fantastically well” in terms of global appeal.

“It’s clear that we will need to go over the 10,500” McConnel said explaining that Tokyo 2020 exceeded the quota when it added baseball and softball yet Paris will be below the ceiling due to more individual sports.

“How far we go we obviously need to discuss. The athlete quotas are finalized at the start of 2025 when we finalize the Olympic program.”

In a statement the IOC said the goal was to ensure “LA28 remain reasonable and below the overall quota for Tokyo 2020.

Squash and flag football will appear at the Games for the first time and the five included sports are only guaranteed on the program for 2028 and would have to be reapproved for any subsequent edition. Surfing and skateboarding, two culturally significant sports in Southern California, were added to the program by the IOC last year because of their youth focus that could further Olympic principles.

“The choice of these five new sports is in line with the American sports culture and will showcase iconic American sports to the world, while bringing international sports to the United States. These sports will make the Olympic Games LA28 unique,” Bach said.

The IOC EB also recommended returning modern pentathlon to the program after the federation replaced the horse riding element with obstacle racing to reduce costs and complexity. The sport has been put on notice and told it must make changes after an animal cruelty incident at the Tokyo 2020 Games grabbed headlines, and proposed changed were not popular among athletes.

Also recommended for readmission was weightlifting after the federation improved its compliance and made a decision to delegate its anti-doping management to the International Testing Agency.

The sport of boxing remains on hold for 2028 as the sport is without a governing body after the International Boxing Association (IBA) lost Olympic recognition earlier this year for a critical lack of compliance. Bach said any decisions on the status of boxing will be made at a later date.

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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