Dan Thompson writes on the IOC's decision on new Olympic sports

The opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games

Dan Thompson is one of Greatest Sporting Nation’s three founding members.

The executive committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) met on Feb 12th to consider which sports to add and which to drop from the Olympics from 2020.
As perhaps the only person on the planet to have done every different Olympic (and Paralympic) event for my Gold Challenge, I thought it would be interesting to review the contenders based on my own experience and our GSN stats.
5 sports were in danger of being dropped – Taekwondo; Modern Pentathlon; Wrestling; Table Tennis and Badminton. It’s a list that includes all the Olympic sports that, if I had to make the decision, I would (reluctantly) consider dropping. It also includes two sports that I’m amazed are in danger of being dropped.
Let’s look at them individually:
  1. Taekwondo
This is a very enjoyable sport but one that I always thought would be a candidate to be dropped because so much depends on the judging - with the result that controversy is never far away. It was almost removed after a series of judging controversies at Beijing 2008 although a new scoring system was introduced for London 2012 and it went relatively smoothly. There is also the sense that having more than one international Taekwondo federation and different schools of Taekwondo is unhelpful. Finally, there is the question of how many martial arts sports there should be at the Olympics given that Boxing and Judo are also already included.
On the plus side, it has a GSN participation rating of 4 meaning that between 60 and 80 countries take part in the Taekwondo World Championships, a lot more than many other Olympic sports. Furthermore 39 countries scored GSN points in Taekwondo in 2012 with the top nation (Spain) only taking 8.8% of the available points. In other words it’s a very competitive sport on a global basis and I think that's a major plus.
Would I drop it? Yes, if another martial art such as wushu or karate is added to the Games (pls see below); otherwise no.
  1. Modern Pentathlon
Modern pentathlon was invented by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, and its 5 component parts – fencing, swimming, show jumping, running and shooting - are based on the ideal skills for a soldier at the time (though some say this is myth). Each component part is great as is the idea of doing them all together. And having had the pleasure of meeting Steph Cook (GB’s gold medallist from Sydney 2000) there’s no doubt people can be passionate about the sport.
However, it’s insanely difficult (and expensive) to compete in this sport. Every competitor has to fence against every other competitor. There have to be horses for each competitor (the horses are all new to the riders and it’s your bad luck if you end up with a low quality one). There has to be a swimming pool, a fencing area, a show jumping course and combined running and shooting course all in one location.
Its GSN participation rating is 1 (less than 20 countries at the World Championships) and 13 countries scored GSN points in modern pentathlon in 2012.
Would I drop it? Sorry, Steph, yes I would.
  1. Wrestling
There are two wrestling disciplines at the Olympics – Freestyle and Greco-Roman. Greco-Roman concentrates solely on the upper part of body and is male only at the Olympics.
Wrestling wasn't one of my favourite Olympic sports. The combination of being useless at it and grappling with loads of sweaty male strangers not quite being my thing. However, it is one of the original Olympic sports with a GSN participation rating of 3 and 31 countries scoring Freestyle Wrestling GSN points in 2012.
Would I drop it? Not completely but I would look at dropping the Greco-Roman wrestling discipline.
  1. Table Tennis
Table tennis (ping pong) is easy to play and, judging from the group I did it with, enjoyable at pretty much every ability level. If the stats I've seen are to be believed it’s also played by a lot of people across the world (300 million!).  The only issue I can see with it as an international sport is that it’s dominated by one country – China, who took 36% of all table tennis GSN points in 2012.
Would I drop it ? No!
  1. Badminton
All my comments re. Table Tennis apply to Badminton, including the domination by one country – China took a whopping 42% of Badminton GSN points in 2012.
Would I drop it? No!
And how about the sports that are up for inclusion? Apparently there are 7 - softball / baseball (joint bid); squash ; sport climbing; wushu (a martial art which some equate to kung fu); wakeboarding (water skiing on something akin to a snowboard); karate and roller sports. Unfair to comment really as I haven’t played them all (although I’d recommend squash and softball to anyone). However you can be sure that, whichever ones make it, they’ll be included in GSN (some already are) and that the team here will be trying them as part of our quest to play every GSN sport!