Olympic games: Sky is the limit as new sports apply for Athens

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The Independent Online
AN OLYMPIC gold medal for parachuting is just one of the scenarios being contemplated by the International Olympic Committee as it considers possible new sports for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

The IOC has received requests from more than a dozen recognised sports federations to be added to the Olympic programme. The list includes parachuting, billiards, underwater swimming, roller skating and surfing. There are also several sports that have been lobbying for years: golf, ballroom dancing, bowling, rugby union, squash and racketball.

The sport that is considered the favourite for becoming a new medal event in Athens, however, is water-skiing. "We have to evaluate the quotas for Athens and see if it's possible to accept new sports," the IOC sports director, Gilbert Felli, said. "Hopefully, the executive board will take a final decision in February." A record 28 sports are on the programme for next year's Games. The line-up includes two new Olympic sports, triathlon and taekwondo.

The IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who is to appear before a US Congress hearing looking into alleged corruption surrounding Atlanta's successful bid to stage the 1996 Summer Games, will travel to the United States next week using a diplomatic passport. However, it will not free him from questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

US Department of Justice officials and the FBI are also eager to talk to Samaranch as part of an ongoing investigation into the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2002 Winter Games. Six IOC members have already been questioned by the FBI, including the IOC vice- president, Dick Pound. The IOC refused to reveal the names of the others, along with the identity of a seventh member who is scheduled to be interviewed.

Few details have emerged over the exact conditions under which Samaranch would agree to meet the FBI or Justice Department officials, other than a statement from the IOC secretary general, Francois Carrard, saying that the IOC president was willing to do so "at a mutually convenient time".

"The IOC and president Samaranch are continuing to co-operate with the US Department of Justice investigation," Carrard said. "It has been agreed with the Department of Justice that he will make himself available for a voluntary interview after Samaranch's December trip to Washington."

In theory, Samaranch could be subpoenaed or stopped for questioning the moment he steps off the plane. US embassy officials in Switzerland said Samaranch could only receive the immunity a diplomatic passport can provide if he were "accredited in that country".

Carrard said Samaranch was in possession of a diplomatic passport from his days as Spain's ambassador to the former-Soviet Union: "Once you are an ambassador of Spain you keep your diplomatic passport. He uses it for all his travels."