KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Athletics will not be voluntarily removing any of its disciplines from the Olympic Games programme in Tokyo in 2020.
IOC president Thomas Bach and the local organisers want to squeeze the traditional programme as tightly as they can to accommodate newcomer events needed, they believe, to reclaim diminishing youth interest.
World athletics’ governing council of the International Association of Athletics Federations is having none of it, certainly as far as the sport traditionally and historically considered as the heart of the action.
Indeed, it is politely calling out Bach, president of the president of the International Olympic Committee, over his inalienable mantra – parroted by all organising and bid committees – that athletes should be “at the heart of the Games.”
Sebastian Coe set out the IAAF stance after a council meeting in London.
Lord Coe said firmly: “Council decided not to remove any disciplines [from the Tokyo programme] given that athletes are already a year or more into their training cycle . . . in fact, not only into this four-year Olympic cycle but the lead up to it.”
In other words, athletes are already halfway down the track at the heart of the Tokyo Games and should be respected for their own loyalty to Olympic competition.
In support of that stance council also decided, unanimously, to shrug off IOC pressure and maintain the 50kmn race-walking event which had appeared the most vulnerable to exclusion.
The IOC excuse for opposition is that the event is open only to men. However the IAAF can point out that it included women in its 50km event at last year’s world race walking team championships.
Also the IAAF already recognises world records at the distance for women to whom the event is open at the London World Championships on August 13.
Paul DeMeester, a San Francisco lawyer lobbing council in London on behalf of the race walkers, said: “The IAAF constitution nowhere mentions deleting or dropping events but only about adding to them.”
Hence he urged the IOC to follow the IAAF’s lead and address the gender equality issue by including women walkers in the 50km race walk in Tokyo.
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