IOC won't remove any sports, for now

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Baseball, softball and modern
pentathlon were assured Monday they will remain on the Olympic
program at least through the 2008 Beijing Games.

The International Olympic Committee said, barring serious
ethical violations or failure to uphold anti-doping rules, no
sports will be dropped before the games of 2012.

The decision, announced by IOC president Jacques Rogge at the
opening of a three-day executive board meeting, gives endangered
sports more breathing space as they try to preserve their Olympic

Rogge said the IOC will review all the sports after this
summer's Athens Olympics and decide on the 2012 program at its
session in Singapore in July 2005. Meantime, the list of 28 Olympic
sports will stay unchanged for Beijing.

Baseball, softball and modern pentathlon had been recommended
for exclusion by an IOC panel in 2002. At a meeting in Mexico City,
the IOC decided to put off a decision until after Athens, but Rogge
said at the time the three sports could still be dropped for

"I wish they had done this two years ago," said Don Porter,
the American president of the international softball federation.
"We've been on pins and needles ever since."

Klaus Schormann, head of the international modern pentathlon
union, said "there was always a doubt in the back of our mind, but
IOC members have always supported our sport."

Aldo Notari, the Italian head of the International Baseball
Federation, added: "I was always optimistic, but there was always
the fear that something bad could happen. We'll be sleeping better
for the next few nights."

Rogge cited a rule in the IOC charter stating no sports can be
added to an Olympics less than seven years before the games. It had
been unclear whether the rule also applied to the removal of

Rogge said sports could be eliminated for Beijing only for
serious ethical breaches or failure to sign the World Anti-Doping
Code. Soccer and cycling are the only summer sports yet to sign the
code, which sets out uniform drug-testing rules and sanctions, but
have promised to do so before the Athens Games in August.

Removal of a sport would require a vote of the full IOC
membership, Rogge said. The last sport dropped from the Summer
Olympics was polo in 1936.

Baseball has been a medal sport since 1992. Softball, a
women-only event, was added in 1996. Modern pentathlon, a
five-sport discipline created by modern Olympics founder Pierre de
Coubertin, was introduced in 1912.

In 2002, a panel appointed by Rogge proposed that the three
sports be dropped because of lack of global popularity, high venue
costs and, in the case of baseball, the absence of top major league

Unlike basketball and hockey, baseball does not send its top
U.S.-based professionals to the Olympics. The Olympics are played
during the major league season, and commissioner Bud Selig said the
season cannot be stopped to allow players to join Olympic teams.

"If the best players don't go to Beijing, then comes the
danger," Notari said. "Major league baseball understands the
problem and is working together with us."

The ruling on Olympic sports came a day before the IOC board
names a shortlist of finalists in the bidding to host the 2012
Summer Games. With nine cities in the running, the board is
expected to eliminate at least three candidates and possibly as
many as five.

Four cities are virtually assured of making the cut: Paris,
London, New York and Madrid, Spain. One definitely won't: Havana.

That leaves four cities on the bubble: Moscow; Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil; Istanbul, Turkey; and Leipzig, Germany. At least two could
be dropped. The host city will be selected in July 2005 in

Paris, which last hosted the Olympics in 1924, is viewed as the
front-runner. New York, which has never staged the Olympics, has to
contend with anti-American sentiment fueled by the invasion of Iraq
and the geographical disadvantage of having the 2010 Winter
Olympics in Canada.