Golf and rugby appear the favorites to be the sports added to the 2016 Summer Olympics, with softball or baseball perhaps in the running, according to Olympic and international sports officials.
The Games will be awarded on Oct. 2 to Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo. Seven sports are vying to be included, the other three being roller sports, karate and squash.
On Thursday, the 15-member executive board of the International Olympic Committee will narrow the list to two proposed sports, which will be voted on by the entire 106-member IOC assembly in Copenhagen on Oct. 9. It has not been decided whether the two proposed sports would be accepted or rejected individually or as a pair.
Votes by the IOC’s executive board and general assembly can be unpredictable, but golf and rugby appear to be the leading candidates right now, with softball perhaps ranking third.
“That’s been floating around,” said Don Porter, the president of the International Softball Federation. “But in Olympic circles, you always hear something different in the last 10 minutes.”
Golf could offer a number of readily identifiable competitors, including the world’s top player, Tiger Woods (picture), who is perhaps the planet’s most visible athlete outside of football and the NBA.
Rugby, which is widening its international appeal, has proposed using a version with seven players on the field instead of the usual 15. This version offers shorter matches, faster-paced action and the ability to pack more games into the 16 available days of the Olympics.
Some feel that rugby may have an edge because it is a favorite sport of Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, who once played the game.
Women’s softball joined the Olympics at the 1996 Atlanta Games, but it and baseball were expelled after the Beijing Games. Many believe the IOC eliminated softball because the United States had dominated the sport, taking the first three gold medals.
But Japan won in Beijing, and some officials contend that the IOC now feels it made a mistake by shelving softball along with baseball.