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Proposal to axe Olympic 200m understandable

Published:Tuesday | December 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Usain Bolt of Jamaica celebrates a gold medal and world record in the 200 metres on Wednesday, August 20, 2008, in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. - File

Oral Tracey, Contributor

It is absolutely understandable that Jamaican track and field fans generally and, including the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt - who is also the world record holder and double defending Olympic champion for the 200-metre event - have reacted with one loud and unified voice against the proposed changes to the schedule of the Olympic Games.

The proposal could, result in the axing of the 200m, triple jump, shot put, 10,000m, some of the walk races, as well as some of the swimming events.

The reactions have been driven by and large by emotions and self-interest and I have heard at least one conspiracy theory, pointing to a sinister and nefarious targeting of events dominated by the black race.

Jamaicans take the possible tampering with the 200m more personally, naturally because it has been our most fruitful event at the Olympic Games, yielding a total of 17 medals, including five gold.

Inclusivity and diversity

Fact of the matter is though, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been perennially bombarded with requests for the inclusion of several unconventional sports and these proposed changes are part of the plans to tweak the Olympic schedule in order to facilitate an even wider spread of sporting disciplines, and that is really what the Olympic Games are all about, inclusivity and diversity.

As it now stands, the Olympic Games are dominated by track and field and swimming, and effecting these changes is expected to bring more balance.

It is, therefore, quite understandable that the IOC would look at reducing the swimming schedule, which I think was too long anyway.

In terms of the track and field programme, why not the 10,000 and the walk races?

If they cut the distance events on the track, in principle, they must also look at the sprints and, of all the sprint events, I think the least of them in terms of acclaim and prestige would be the 200m, which, outside of the narrow Jamaican perspective, could be argued is a mere backup or consolation event for the ultra-prestigious 100 metres.

Overall picture

Naturally, with the advent of Usain Bolt and the positive impact he has had on the sport generally as a 200m specialist, the decision-makers are eyeing the inevitable retirement of Bolt. Thus, these proposed changes would not come into effect until after Rio 2016, which is expected to be the sprint king's last Olympic appearance.

It is hardly surprising that Bolt himself has jumped to the defence of his pet event, but looking dispassionately at the overall picture of what the Olympic Games are meant to be, I think the IOC is right on point with these proposals in pursuit of those wider objectives.

Both the track and field and the swimming programmes would be marginally affected by these changes. The basic spectacle surrounding these to sport would still be very much intact.

There should be no problem in principle in sacrificing a few extra swim races or a few sprint or distance races in order to add sports such as netball, possibly Twenty20 cricket, chess, etc.

Let us put Jamaica's position in world sport into some kind of rational perspective. As powerful and as omnipresent as we continue to be, the Olympic Games are not all about us. So please, let us not take these proposed changes so personally.