— Published 10 December 2021

For LA 2028, three sports are joining, three others are leaving

Nice end-of-year gifts. Three disciplines invited to the Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Games in the additional sports camp should, barring an improbable scenario, join the official programme of the Los Angeles 2028 Games. But in a less pleasing development, three international federations are threatened with leaving the Olympic family at the same time.

Meeting for the last time this year in virtual mode, the IOC Executive Board met on Thursday 9 December to discuss the much-dreaded issue of the Summer Games programme. The result of its work made three happy. But it left three others in doubt and anxiety.

On the winning side were surfing, climbing and skateboarding. Invited for the first time to the Tokyo Games as additional sports, they have been extended to Paris 2024 in the same category. An enviable but very uncertain status. Subject to validation by the 139th IOC Session, which is due to meet on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Games, surfing, climbing and skateboarding will become official sports at the Los Angeles Games in 2028. They will be added to the list of 28 sports proposed for the Summer Games in California.

The reason is one word: youth. The IOC makes no bones about it: the three newcomers bring a much-needed innovation and rejuvenation to the Olympic event. They also have the advantage of having “deep roots in California”. Surfing, in particular, has been elevated to the status of an individual state sport, a status that would ensure it remains in the mix in Los Angeles in 2028.

Now the beaters. In a game of musical chairs, there are also three: boxing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon. The IOC Executive Board left them off the list of 28 sports to be proposed at the session next February in Beijing. However, it is important to note that they have not been permanently removed from the list. Their presence is only subject to conditions.

Without hesitation, the fate of the modern pentathlon is the least desperate. Its international federation, the UIPM, caused a stir last month when it decided to remove equestrian from its list of five disciplines. The IOC was an attentive spectator to the controversy that arose from this palace revolution.

On Thursday 9 December, its Executive Board placed modern pentathlon in brackets for the 2028 Games. “The UIPM must finalise its proposal for the replacement of equestrian and the overall competition format and demonstrate a significant reduction in costs and complexity as well as an improvement in the areas of safety, accessibility, universality and appeal to young people and the general public,” explained the IOC. The ball is now in the UIPM’s court. Its leaders will have to pull a fifth sport out of their hat that meets the IOC’s expectations. Not an easy task. But the future of the sport depends on it.

Boxing seems to be much worse off. In its case, it is not a question of revising its appearance, but of putting an end to a past that the IOC would like to see erased once and for all. The Olympic body explains: “AIBA must demonstrate that it has successfully addressed current concerns regarding its governance, financial transparency, sustainability and the integrity of its arbitration and judging processes.”

AIBA’s new president, Russia’s Umar Kremlev, is making announcements (and trips) in the hope of restoring his organisation to a more presentable image. But judging by the latest exchanges between the two parties, the IOC is not yet convinced.

Finally, there is the case of weightlifting. The other bad pupil of the Olympic movement seemed less threatened than boxing. Unlike AIBA, its international body, the IWF, was not suspended by the IOC. But the threat remains just as serious, if not more so.

The IOC explained on Thursday 9 December: “The IWF and its future leaders must demonstrate a transition to compliance and an effective change of culture. In addition, the international federation must successfully address the long-standing issue of doping in its sport and ensure the integrity, robustness and full independence of its anti-doping programme.”

Unlike AIBA, the IWF has still not been able to hold elections and have an elected president. Faced with the threat brandished by the IOC, it will have to do so as soon as possible, or risk disappearing from the Olympic radar.

Modern pentathlon, boxing and weightlifting will be able to join the list of sports on the programme of the Los Angeles Games at the IOC Session in 2023, provided they have presented the IOC Executive Board with a clean copy.

As for the additional sports, their concept has not been abandoned. The Organising Committee of the LA 2028 Games will still be able to propose additional sports to the IOC. But within the quota of 10,500 athletes. And without deviating from the priority of reducing the costs and complexity of hosting the Games.