TOKYO - The programme of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics could be expanded to include some previously demoted sports if the overall numbers of athletes and permanent competition facilities do not exceed their prescribed upper limits, according to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.
His remarks indicate that some events previously removed from the official list, such as baseball and softball, could find their way back to the lineup of 28 events officially selected for the Tokyo Games.
"We need more flexibility," Bach said during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo on Wednesday, expressing his personal view.
To achieve that goal, Bach emphasised the need to ensure athletes and facilities do not surpass the numbers set under IOC rules, thus maintaining the size of each Olympic Games.
"We have to respect these two limitations," he said, adding any attempt to do so is essential in ensuring the Olympic Games will survive as a sustainable international competition in the future.
Bach, 59, also expressed a flexible opinion about procedures to be completed under the Olympic Charter in finalizing the list of events in each Olympics seven years prior to the Games. Demoted events could be brought back if the host city allows such changes and the IOC decides to treat the changes as exceptions to its rules, said Bach, who has long served as chief of the IOC juridical commission.
Bach said IOC members have differing views about how many sports should be contested at summer games. The issue will likely be discussed at a meeting of the IOC executive board in Lausanne, Switzerland, in December, and also during the IOC session prior to the Sochi Winter Olympics in February, he said.
Baseball and softball were dropped from the 2012 London Olympics, and were last contested at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Change with the times
By Wakako Yuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer
Thomas Bach's inauguration as IOC president may provide momentum for reforming the IOC rules related to the Olympic programme.
He believes what is needed to prevent the Olympics from becoming an excessively large event is to not set an upper limit on the number of sports matches, but to cap the number of facilities and athletes in the Games. Making a decision about how many facilities should be built and used in each Olympics can directly affect the costs to be incurred.
There have been calls for reforming the IOC rules to add new sporting events to the Olympic programme in recent years. In fact, his predecessor, Jacques Rogge, created a system in which some traditional Olympic events could be replaced by new events.
However, Bach has said the system will likely be reconsidered to better suit the Games to changing times.
Controversy erupted earlier this year when wrestling was designated as a possible event to be removed from the list of competitions in the 2020 Olympics. However, the sport was eventually reinstated on the list. This has encouraged IOC members to consider the advisability of reforming the system.
There are still hurdles to be overcome in trying to bring demoted events back to the list of events in the 2020 Games. However, there is good reason to believe Bach has baseball and softball in mind when he mentioned the possibility of some demoted events being placed back in the list.