Why age may not come before Olympic beauty for modern pentathlon – Keir Radnedge

By iSportconnect | February 11, 2013

Traditionalists from far and wide across the Olympic movement have been vocal these past few weeks in the corridors of power and in the media in defence of modern pentathlon.

The reason is that the executive board of the International Olympic Committee must decide over the next two days in Lausanne which sport to remove from the current summer Games schedule to open up a miniscule window of entry opportunity in 2020 (wherever that may be: Tokyo or Istanbul or Madrid).

Modern pentathlon is – ironically appropriate for a mix of fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting – first in the firing line.

Olympic leaders are infamously conservative over welcoming brash newcomers to their upper-class sporting elite. The acquiescence to commercial concerns and welcoming back rugby (union, sevens) and golf for Rio 2016 was something of a mini palace revolution.

Current process is nothing like as generous. Seven sports are vying for one offered slot in 2020 and will be joined in the jousts by whichever sport the executive board pushes out this week.

Mere old boy/old girl networking will surely offer that sport an unwritten, unspoken advantage in campaigning between now and late May. That is when the executive board, meeting again during SportAccord in St Petersburg, decides which single sport to recommend for approval by the IOC Session [congress] in Buenos Aires in September.

Waiting to welcome the new contestant for the IOC’s favour are baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, roller sports, squash, wakeboard and wushu. All seven presented their cases last December to the 12-member IOC programme commission headed by Italian IOC member Franco Carraro.

The commission will send its own recommendation on behalf of one lucky sport to the executive board at its May meeting.

In the meantime it has also prepared for the executive board an analysis of all the sports on the 2012 schedule in terms of TV ratings, ticketing, anti-doping conformity and general global popularity and visibility.

Most vulnerable is modern pentathlon, followed by taekwondo and badminton.

The nature of the ousted sport may influence what comes next. For example, if the EB pushed out badminton that would encourage squash to press (even harder than it is already) to take up a perceived vacant racket sport slot.

Despite all its old friends on the traditionalist wing of the Olympic movement, modern pentathlon may struggle to maintain a slot it has held since 1912. 

Here is a hybrid ‘event’ rather than a self-encompassing ‘sport’ and its supra-elitist image is utterly at odds with the sport-for-everyone-especially-the-young philosophy espoused by president Jacques Rogge.

At the very least, in the 21st century, it would appear fair and proper that modern pentathlon should be ‘invited’ to justify its right to an Olympic future.

** The IOC executive board will consider among other issues, this week, the fall-out from the Lance Armstrong scandal and trimming back the contenders to host the 2018 Youth Olympic Games (current contenders Buenos Aires, Glasgow, Guadalajara, Medellin and Rotterdam).


Keir Radnedge has been covering football worldwide for more than 40 years, writing 33 books, from tournament guides to comprehensive encyclopedias, aimed at all ages.

His journalism career included The Daily Mail for 20 years as well as The Guardian and other national newspapers and magazines in the UK and around the world. He is a former editor, and remains a lead columnist, with World Soccer, generally recognised as the premier English language magazine on global football.

In addition to his writing, Keir has been a regular analyst for BBC radio and television, Sky Sports, Sky News, Aljazeera and CNN.

Keir Radnedge’s Twitter: @KeirRadnedge

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