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posted Apr 18, 2014, 6:28 PM by Unknown user







On the beat with Martyn Ziegler

Press Association Sport's chief reporter reveals the issue at the heart of new IOC president Thomas Bach's Olympic get-together in Montreux in late December.









iti11s, A !ti11S, Forlitts, s goes the Olympic mo tto: faster, higher, stronger. And soon, it ma y well be, even  looger.

Ever since 1932, the summer Olympics has taken place over a period of 16 days, with two full weeks and three weekends of sporting action.

Now, senior sources in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have confirmed they are to give serious consideration to an idea of extending the Games so that they start with an opening ceremony on a Sunday night and then the sport takes place over three full weeks.

That is not the only change that will be debated during 2014. Just before Christmas, IOC president Thomas Bach gathered the leading lights of the

movement together in Montreux, on the shores of Lake Geneva, to begin what is likely to be a serious Olympic shake-up.

The current age limits for IOC members are likely to be reviewed, while a long overdue look at the Olympic Games programme will also take place - though as usual the sports will fight like hell to make sure their disciplines are not slashed.

That is also why the idea of lengthening the Olympics is likely to win favour - making the Games longer will take some of the pressure off the programme and allow new sports in.

Even so, making the Olympics three weeks long would be fairly revolutionary, for while the world's other major sporting events have expanded in size and the length of time they take, the IOC has maintained its two-week formula ever since the Los Angeles Games in 1932.

The only change of  significance has been holding the opening ceremony on the Friday night of  the first weekend rather than the Saturday.



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By contrast, since 1932, football's World Cup and European Championships have more than doubled the length of time their flagship international tournaments occupy, indirectly pushing up the amount the governing bodies can charge for broadcast rights.

That lucrative side-effect has not escaped the notice of some IOC members. If a longer Olympics were agreed - and it would not come in until 2024 - then it would allow swimming and gymnastics, the two most important sports in terms of the US broadcast

market which remains by tl1e far the most important single region to the IOC, to

be spread over an extra day and allow the IOC to charge even more for those rights.

The growing pressure to make squash an Olympic sport and allow a return

for baseball/softball,  both of  which suffered from the farcical events of last year when 'wrestling was first excluded and then voted back in as a sport, is also driving the thoughts of  extending the length of the Games.

Such a course of action has crossed the minds of  the IOC before: Michael Payne, formerly the IOC's director of marketing and global broadcast rights, confirms it was seriously considered by the late Juan Antonio Samaranch when he was president during the 1990s, only to be rejected.

Payne, who left the IOC in 2004, believes that the length of the Games is one of the "sacred cows" that can finally be touched.

He said in an interview: "I think a proper, definitive review of an awful lot of things connected to the Olympics is long overdue and there is considerable excitement and anticipation among seasoned observers that a breath of

fresh air has been intruded into the thinking of the IOC. Thomas Bach has recognised there is a problem with the sports programme ."

There are persistent murmurs from IOC members that the age limit of 70 is too low -it is 80 for those who were

members before the limit was introduced in 1999. The rule has led to some high­ profile figures being forced to step down, including International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti and gymnastics' Bruno Grandi.

There would probably be considerable support for extending the limit to 75, but those close to Bach do not believe

he has strong feelings that such a change is necessary and is also keen to attract younger  IOC members.

The new president has bigger fish to fry, and extending the Olympics may well end up in his pan. Decision day will come in December at an extraordinary IOC session in Monaco.

Payne added: "There are two schools of thought - one questions whether you can sustain the Olympic interest over three weeks, while the other looks at the World Cup taking place over more than four weeks and has no such doubts.

"The key thing is: don't rush into this. There are some sacred cows that should not be touched, such as no advertising in the venues, but this is one that should be looked  at."

In 1924, the Paris Games took place between 4th May and 27th July. No one is suggesting that, 100 years later, the Olympics should last the best part of three months, no matter how many

blockbuster movies it may spawn, but a longer Games would be the single most dramatic change that could take place under this year's review.