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What’s new at the Olympics?

Olympic LogosFor a non-Olympic year, the Olympics have been in the news a lot lately.   There’s the controversy over whether female ski jumpers should be allowed to compete at the next Winter Games, the debate over which new sports should be added to the programme  and the choice of venue for the 2016 Games.

So let’s review (don’t worry – there won’t be a test).  The next Olympics takes place in Vancouver in February 2010. The Winter Games feature a lot of popular sports, including figure skating, skiing and snowboarding, as well as more obscure sports like curling and skeleton.  We’ll start to profile all the events soon so you’re up to speed on all the action.

The biggest story relating to the Vancouver Games concerns a group of women ski jumpers who aren’t being allowed to compete (despite the fact their male counterparts have been doing so for decades). After appealing to the IOC (International Olympic Committee), they’ve taken their complaint to the courts.  IOC President Jacques Rogge has repeatedly denied the women’s requests and their  case is scheduled to be heard in the BC Court of Appeal Nov. 12 & 13 – just three months before the start of Games.

The next Summer Games will take place in London in 2012.  Baseball and softball were both  dropped for the 2012 London Games in a move many believe discriminated against Americans who dominated in both sports. Japan, however, won the last gold medal for softball and eliminating the sport from the Olympics was a huge blow to women around the world who play the game.

What has been added to the 2012 Games is women’s boxing.  According the the IOC, the  change reflects the IOC’s desire to continually refresh the Olympic programme and its commitment to increase participation by women. Kind of ironic given their stance on women ski jumpers. And their recent pressure on Muslim countries who fail to support the participation of female athletes.

The Sochi Winter Games 2014 seem to be relatively drama-free although there are  activists protesting Russia’s politics who have demanded the 2014 Winter Olympics be moved from Russia to a new site. Despite the protests, the Sochi Games are moving forward with new venues and attractions currently under construction.

The most recent Olympic fanfare had to do with the venue of the 2016 Games. A number of cities vied for the chance to host the games including Chicago, Madrid, Tokyo and Rio.  Chicago appeared to be a top choice and President Obama and TV Queen Oprah Winfrey appeared before the committee on behalf of their city.  Much to their dismay, Chicago was voted out on the first ballot and the Games were awarded to Rio de Janeiro – making it the first time the Games will be held in South America.

Golf has successfully scheduled a tee time for the 2016 Olympics. The sport returns to the Games  for the first time since 1904 amid the spectacular backdrop of Rio de Janeiro’s sand and sea. Golfers will compete for Olympic medals, but the greater promise for the sport is that the game catches on in countries where golfers are few and golf courses are even fewer. Michelle Wie, for several years the world’s best known female amateur player, helped lobby for golf to be included.  She told the IOC  that putting golf in the games would give young girls everywhere something new to aspire to.

Rugby also got the nod for the 2016 Games after a campaign of its own to show off the sport to a wider audience. The IOC  voted to include rugby sevens featuring 12 men’s and women’s teams.

The two sports share an Olympic history of sorts, both making their debuts at the second modern games in Paris in 1900. Golf was played again only in 1904, while 15-a-side rugby was in three more games, the last the 1924 Paris Olympics.

Both golf and rugby had to make some concessions to win their respective vote. Golf promised the IOC it would not stage any other major championships during the Olympics, while the Rugby Sevens World Cup will be canceled.

So, stay tuned. Despite the fact that the next Olympics are still four months away, there seems to be no lack of drama relating to the Games.

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