IOC warns summer sports of impending athlete cuts
By Jonathan Rest in PyeongChang
The International Olympic Committee is seeking to cut the number of athletes competing in the summer Olympic Games, in a bid to control costs for local organisers.
The IOC is already some 200 athletes above its own set limit of 10,500 athletes competing in 28 sports on the programme, and that’s before the addition of five new sports, 18 events and 474 athletes at Tokyo 2020, following the decision to allow organising committees to propose their own sports.
Tokyo was successful in adding baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing to its programme.
However, that puts an additional financial strain on the organising committee to accommodate more athletes.
John Coates, the IOC member from Australia, and former vice-president of the organisation, said today: “The [Olympic] Charter says 10,500. We are over that at the moment so we will need the co-operation of the international federations to bring us back to that number. I think we are over by 200.
“The other thing that a position has not been taken on yet is that, on the one hand we are asking for all these savings, but then we’re giving host cities the opportunity to propose new sports for their games with athletes in addition to that number.
“The question that will have to be faced up to is, ‘Is the number that was agreed for Tokyo appropriate?’ And perhaps if it’s going to be, say, 200 athletes for host cities to propose, the IOC needs to be saying to the sports, ‘let’s bring the 10,500 down to 10,300 so we’re not putting a bigger burden on the hosts’.
“Informally those discussions are taking place, but we haven’t addressed it yet... The summer games is where we are putting the pressure on.”
There will be no such constraints on the winter Olympics.
Gunilla Lindberg, the IOC member from Sweden, and general secretary of the Association of National Olympic Committees, said: “We are used to certain countries being traditional winter sport countries, but here you can see 92 teams competing… The vision of PyeongChang when they were bidding was to bring new horizons, to open up more countries to practise winter sports… For the Olympic movement, I think it is fantastic that also the winter games are becoming global.”
Coates and Lindberg were speaking to international media about ‘The New Norm,’ a document containing 118 reforms to reimagine how the Olympic Games are delivered. The New Norm aims to provide more flexibility in designing the games to meet long-term development plans, and ensure that cities seeking to host the games will receive more support and assistance along the way.
Paris 2024 is set to be the first host city to receive the full benefits of The New Norm, but Coates did not rule out the possibility of further cuts being made in the budget for Tokyo 2020.
The chair of the Tokyo 2020 coordination commission said: “We have got some ideas for Tokyo but we will continue to push. I think the Tokyo revenues are secure but we want to make sure they (games organisers) do not regard that as a comfort zone. We want to continue to drive and make savings.”
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have worked together to slash the initial budget by around $2.5 billion to $12.6 billion.
Coates highlighted the near-$3 billion in domestic sponsorship – an Olympics record – that Tokyo 2020 has already pulled in, and said the organising committee was in a healthy financial state.
He continued: “[Savings] are at $2.5 billion already. I think there is hesitancy [from Tokyo 2020], particularly given the extraordinary revenues that are coming in from national sponsors... because they do not want to take any chances.
“Money for the organising committee is not an issue. But we will keep pushing.”
The New Norm is, according to Coates, a “complete rethink” prompted by the number of bids for the 2022 winter and 2024 summer Olympics that were ended by the outcome of referenda in the proposed host cities.
In the 2026 winter bid race, for which the IOC has said it is in dialogue with Calgary, Sion, Stockholm and Sapporo, the IOC has vowed to communicate better with residents in those cities and provide economic impact data to showcase the financial benefits of staging the games.
Coates said: “It remains to be seen how effective it will be, but we’re the ones who have all that information from past experiences. We’ll put it together and we’ll share it.”