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Support for Agenda 2020 marks new era for Olympic movement

The Olympic movement is bracing itself for significant changes after International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach secured almost total support for his ‘Agenda 2020’ measures in Monaco today (Monday).

Having first been unveiled last month, the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement was debated by the full IOC membership today at the 127th IOC Session, with headline reforms to the Olympic bidding process, the make-up of the sports programme for the Olympic Games and the much-trumpeted Olympic channel all approved.

Proceedings kicked off with Recommendation One, which outlines a new philosophy to invite potential candidate cities to present a project that fits their “sporting, economic, social and environmental long-term planning needs”. The IOC is keen that the bidding process be shaped more as an invitation with the introduction of an “invitation phase” – during which cities considering a bid will be advised about the opportunities this new procedure offers, in particular in regard to legacy and sustainability.

While winter Olympics have permitted cross-border competition, the summer Games have remained steadfast in a model of retaining a core host city. However, the IOC has said the organisation of sports and events outside the host city and even, in exceptional cases, outside the host country, could be allowed.

“The compactness of the Games has to be weighed up against the benefit of using existing venues,” Australia’s IOC vice-president John Coates said. “These changes do contemplate different cities and countries hosting the Games, and this is for reasons of sustainability.”

Under Agenda 2020, Recommendation Three outlines plans to reduce costs for bidding by decreasing the number of presentations that are allowed and providing a “significant financial contribution” from the IOC. At the same time, the IOC emphasised that the sustainability of a bid must be taken into consideration from the beginning.

The approval of Recommendation 10 lays out a move from a sport-based to event-based programme at Olympic Games. There will be limits on accreditation for athletes, coaches and other athlete support staff to ensure that the Games do not grow bigger. The IOC has proposed flexible restrictions of approximately 10,500 athletes, 5,000 accredited coaches and athletes’ support personnel, and 310 events for a summer Games. For the winter Games this would reduce to approximately 2,900 athletes, 2,000 accredited coaches and athletes’ support personnel, and 100 events.

The IOC will now allow more than 28 sports to be on the summer Olympics programme while respecting these limits. Sports will also not have to wait seven years from being approved for their first Olympic appearance, but instead could be brought in for just one Olympics to maximise that event’s reach and attraction. Organising committees will be able to propose the addition of “one or more additional events” on the Olympic programme for their Games. With an eye on Tokyo 2020, this alteration could have a significant bearing on baseball and softball’s long-running bid for a return to the Olympic programme.

The two sports have been missing from the Olympics since Beijing 2008, but with huge popularity in Japan they are seen as strong contenders for a place at Tokyo 2020. World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) president Riccardo Fraccari indicated that the WBSC will wait for guidance and direction from the IOC and Tokyo 2020 to determine how the new reforms could involve baseball and softball.

Fraccari added the WBSC had devised a new shorter and more compact format for Olympic baseball and softball which included the use of a shared and existing competition venue. He said: “Today, there is excitement circulating around the baseball and softball world and there is great hope that our athletes will now have a real opportunity – the pinnacle and highest honour in our sport – to play for their country, aiming to win an Olympic gold medal. The reforms herald a new era for sports and athletes worldwide, and provide important hope and inspiration for sports and athletes wanting to participate in the world's most important global sporting event, the Olympic Games.”

The IOC also backed the launch of an Olympic channel – possibly as early as next year. The channel will feature material from the IOC's archives, broadcast some international sports competitions and offer a promotional platform for bid cities. The IOC said the channel – to be run by the Madrid-based Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) – will cost $600m (€490m) to operate over its first seven years, with the goal of breaking even in the first decade.

In other recommendations, the IOC has also approved a remodelling of the Youth Olympic Games. The event is now set to move to a non-Olympic year, starting with the fourth summer Youth Olympics, to be postponed from 2022 to 2023. The Youth Olympics was the pet project of Bach’s predecessor, Jacques Rogge, but the event currently in the bidding process – the 2020 winter Games – received bids from only Brasov and Lausanne.