ATLANTA — On Day 1 of the 27th Summer Olympiad, the four-year period between Games, the future of modern pentathlon, baseball and softball as Olympic sports appeared in doubt.
Organizers of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, have added triathlon and taekwondo and said last week that they have been assured by the International Olympic Committee that a decision on which sports will be eliminated, if any, will be determined by the end of December.
Triathlon, Sydney spokesman Richard Palfreyman said, could become a permanent replacement for modern pentathlon, which has been part of the Olympics since 1912 but no longer has the requisite number of countries participating--75 on four continents for men's sports, 40 on three continents for women's sports.
In its first appearance in the Olympics this year, softball proved popular. But whether it remains in the Games apparently depends on an upcoming decision by the International Baseball Federation about whether to allow professionals to play in the Olympics.
If the IBF votes against it, as it has in the past after vigorous campaigning by two-time Olympic champion Cuba, the IOC probably will drop baseball. Although it has its own federation, softball is considered baseball's female equivalent, said IOC executive board member Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles, and probably would also be dropped.
"That's one reason I've been so insistent that baseball open the doors to professionals," DeFrantz said. "I want to see more sports for women. Losing softball would be a setback."
The head of the major league players' association, Don Fehr, is expected to be named to the U.S. Olympic Committee's board of directors in October and favors the use of professionals in the Games. But because the major league season is in progress during the Summer Olympics, he said that players from the high minor leagues might have to be used. IOC leaders have indicated that would be acceptable.
"The important thing is that the best players in the world are eligible to participate," DeFrantz said.
If there are any additions to the program in Sydney besides triathlon and taekwondo, they probably would benefit women in sports or events that already have Olympic status for men.
More women than ever before competed in Atlanta but were still outnumbered, 3-1, by men.
Women's water polo, DeFrantz said, has the best chance among sports. The international weightlifting and wrestling federations also are trying to have women in their sports included. And women's pole vault probably will be added.
Modern pentathlon's efforts to become more spectator-friendly and cut costs by becoming a one-day event were viewed positively by the IOC. But the sport, by admission of its own international governing body, has not been able to generate enough popularity worldwide to continue meeting the IOC's standards.
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Sports that organizers of the Sydney Games have added:
POSSIBLY COMING OUT
Sports that could be dropped by the International Olympic Committee:
* Modern Pentathlon
POSSIBLY COMING IN
Sports or events that could be added:
* Women's pole vault
* Women's water polo
* Women's weightlifting
* Women's wrestling