Letter: Expendable sports in overcrowded Olympics

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a practitioner of a sport of limited televisual appeal, but one who leapt to his feet a few minutes ago shouting at the television screen as Sally Gunnell rounded the last bend, I must take issue with your test ('An Olympic challenge', 5 August) for retention of sports in these overcrowded Olympic Games. You do a disservice to the thousands upon thousands of sportswomen and men who aspire to take part in the Games if you believe they do it for a love of glory. I warrant that all pursue first a deep love of their sport and its comradeship, second, the thrill of competition and, importantly but definitely lastly, the satisfaction of winning. Ask Sally]

A better test, reflecting the ethos of the original Games, would be to exclude sports that did not exhibit personal contest between athletes in front of the people. So out go those that are not energetic (diving, shooting, archery, dressage) and those that require the subjective assessment of judges (diving and dressage again, gymnastics, exotic swimming). And keep, very firmly, all sports where one person pits her or his skill and endurance against another - and that of course includes fencing, arguably the most skilful and combative and certainly the most sweaty of all.

As for the people, the privilege of watching the very best in competition will guarantee the necessary spectators. The International Olympic Committee should not concern itself with televisuality; it is not their business.

And now, if you will excuse me, Curtis Robb and I are about to enjoy the 800 metres.

Yours sincerely,

C. C. WALKER

Chairman, Combined Services Fencing Association

Gosport, Hampshire

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