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Rogge: World economic crisis hitting sport as well

Mexico City: The impact of the world economic crisis on sport is very worrying, said International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge as the IOC began a meeting dealing with cutbacks in the Olympics.

Opening an IOC session where the Olympic futures of softball, baseball and modern pentathlon are under threat, Rogge said the IOC hoped cost-cutting and reducing the size of the Games would help it save sport from too much suffering.

“The serious economic crisis that we are currently experiencing is also affecting sport and its funding,” said Rogge. “The IOC has been spared this thanks to the visionary policy of (former) president Juan Antonio Samaranch and his executive board colleagues, which enabled long-term contracts to be signed.

“The IOC is nonetheless very concerned about the difficulties that many sports organisations, international federations, and national Olympic committees are currently facing in finding the funds they need for their development. The IOC has a duty to help its partners.”

The three-day session will vote on Friday whether to take modern pentathlon, softball and baseball out of the 2008 Beijing Games, the first time the IOC has proposed such a radical change since 1936.Since taking over as president last year, Rogge has pledged to scale down the Summer Games after decades of expansionism under Samaranch because he feels the event is becoming too big and expensive to manage.

Rogge has been undertaking a whole cost-cutting programme of cost-cutting. But Olympic sources believe the IOC members are unlikely to take the decision to cut the three sports from the Games this week.

An IOC report published in August said baseball and softball were very popular in certain countries but the popularity was not reflected throughout entire regions or continents.

If the session decides to keep the three sports, Rogge’s ruling executive board is going to have to spend the next six months looking to trim the Games around the edges by taking out disciplines to scale down the Olympics. Events in badminton, rowing, canoeing, yachting and synchronised swimming are among the disciplines in danger.

The first major item on the session’s agenda is the controversial issue of visits to cities bidding for the Games. IOC members were banned from visiting cities after the Salt Lake City corruption scandal in 1998 and 1999 when 10 members were forced to leave the organisation for breaking rules on accepting gifts from the US when it was bidding for the Games in the mid-1990s.

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