In a brief media release last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) shed a little more light on the announcement in St Petersburg this week of the final shortlist of sports bidding to make the 2020 Olympic Games.
Of course, the eight bids at present are baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard, wushu and now wrestling – who were put into the mix after being controversially recommended for exclusion from the list of core sports after Rio 2016 by the IOC Executive Board in February.
The IOC Executive Board will again take center stage tomorrow, when they decide which sports will make the final shortlist.
The release explained that from 1.30pm to 8pm Moscow Standard Time (MSK), all eight will present to the Executive Board at the Lenexpo Exhibition Complex to state their case before the Board votes to decide on the shortlist.
Then, at 8.30pm MSK, there will be a “press briefing with the IOC director of communications Mark Adams, including announcement of shortlist of sport(s) for 2020 Olympic program.”
What is far less clear is how many sports will be shortlisted for the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires in September, where the full IOC membership will vote on which one will be included in the 2020 Olympics.
Three seems to be magic number – although Germany’s IOC vice-president Thomas Bach told me last month that the Executive Board “should be flexible” when deciding how many of the sports will be shortlisted.
“The President [Jacques Rogge] has not said how many of the sports will be shortlisted in St Petersburg,” Bach told me just a few days before he announced he would be standing to become the next IOC President himself.
“It is something that we will most likely discuss following the presentations. In my opinion, I don’t think we should have an exact number that we should shortlist because I think we should be flexible. If the presentations are good enough and the bid has enough strength, I see no reason why we shouldn’t take it through to the next stage.
“So it is my opinion that we should show flexibility in shortlisting the sports but obviously this will be something that we will discuss as a Board; and the President’s wishes will also be very important in deciding this.”
It has become abundantly clear that many senior figures in the IOC are unhappy with the way the process has been run, particularly given that wrestling could be welcomed straight back into the fold.
But, the confusion around the way the process has been rather clumsily mapped out means that the majority of the Executive Board will happily sit back and let Rogge decide how many sports will be shortlisted.
The IOC President, who now has just under three months left in the role, has been purposely vague on the subject, refusing to give anything away.
It is unlikely that, in one of his last major acts as President, he would look to put forward any less than three of the eight.
The mystery surrounding Rogge’s thinking has made it difficult for the sports as they prepare crucial presentations of just 30 minutes to decide their fate.
Antonio Castro, the high-profile vice president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and son of the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was in London last week on his way to St Petersburg.
While refusing to reveal any secrets about the baseball/softball presentation he will help deliver to the IOC Executive Board in Russia this week, he said it makes for nervous times.
“We are very confident and we believe we have a strong presentation for the IOC Executive Board so we are excited,” Castro told me as I met him in the shadow of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. “But you never know which way it is going to go. There are eight sports bidding and there can be only one winner and only the IOC can decide this.
“We can only concentrate on ourselves and do the best we can in our presentation and then we can only hope for the best.”
It is a feeling that all eight sports will share as they hold their breath and wait for 8.30pm MSK in St Petersburg, when they learn if their fate will take then to Buenos Aires via the final shortlist.
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. To follow him on Twitter click here. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.