Sports Politics: Olympic heads at odds

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SIR ARTHUR GOLD took a parting shot yesterday at the increasingly commercial stance of the Olympic movement before standing down officially as the British Olympic Association's chairman.

But the man who succeeded him at the annual meeting, Craig Reedie, appeared less unhappy with the direction the movement, and its president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, is taking.

The brunt of the 75-year-old retiring chairman's criticism fell on the decision to bring new sports into the Games with television audiences, particularly United States audiences, in mind.

'If you are a tennis player the Grand Slam is more important than an Olympic gold medal,' said Sir Arthur, who emphasised that he was now speaking as an individual. 'In baseball there is the World Series. In soccer there is the World Cup. And the basketball this year was a one-sided thing. Sport is only sport if the result is unpredictable.

'From the IOC angle the danger is more that if sports are brought in like this, the Olympic Games could become a festival of second most important championships. Income would then dwindle, and the Olympic movement could be left with champagne tastes and ginger beer pockets.

'There is a real danger that in seeking a TV audience we could be aiming Olympic entertainment at the wrong audience. Of course the BOA supports the Olympic movement. But we must be careful that we do not encourage its journey along what some of us believe could be a dangerous path. The ancient Olympics lasted for 1100 years - far longer than I fear our present ones will last - before being finally destroyed by money and politics. One thing man learns from history is that he doesn't learn.'

Reedie, a 51-year-old financial adviser with a background in badminton administration, takes a far more pragmatic line on the issues which concern Sir Arthur.

'Nobody could come away from Barcelona and not have a feeling of optimism about the future of the Olympic Games,' Reedie said. 'It has changed in the last 12 years from a movement with problem after problem to one with huge success.'

Dick Palmer, the BOA secretary, expressed dissatisfaction at Britain's general showing in Barcelona, where they finished 13th in the medals table, one place lower than in 1988.

Pointing out the success of Korea and Spain - who were fourth and sixth respectively as hosts of the last two Olympics after benefiting from huge investment - he said Britain required greater long- term financial commitment to enable potential competitors to train full-time, the factor most crucial to Olympic success.