New sports may be showcased at '88 Winter Olympics in Calgary
The Summer Olympics are so chock full of sports, officials resist making them any more unwieldy. The Winter Olympics, however, are quite small by comparison. For that reason, the possibility of enlarging them seems more likely, particularly with the decision announced here by the International Olympic Committee to expand the winter competition from 12 to 16 days, which is the length of the Summer Games.
Potential additions include curling, freestyle skiing, and short track speed skating - all of which received at least preliminary approval as demonstration sports or events for 1988 - and the super giant slalom, which supporters still hope to add to the regular program at Calgary four years from now.
No medals are awarded in demonstration sports, of which there were none at the XIV Winter Games here. The IOC recently lifted a moratorium on these experimental-type events, which can be requested by the host city's organizing committee (as is being done in Los Angeles this summer, when baseball and tennis are both on the program in that capacity).
Designation as a demonstration sport is certainly no guarantee of gaining approval as an official Olympic sport. Curling, for example, enjoyed demonstration status on four previous occasions, most recently at Innsbruck, Austria in 1964, yet never received a promotion. Its frequent appearances, however, distinguish it from dog sledding, which was tried at the 1932 Lake Placid Games, never to return.
Curling, which attracts only 10 nations to its annual Silver Broom world championships and resembles shuffleboard on ice, seems perhaps too parochial as well as too tame for the generally robust Olympic competitions.
On the surface, at least, freestyle skiing and short track speed skating would seem to have better chances for eventual acceptance on the permanent Olympic program.
For one thing, both would be classified as new events, rather than sports, since they would come under the umbrellas of existing Olympic sports (Alpine skiing and speed skating) - and new events come on the scene with a fair amount of regularity. The men's 1,000-meter speed skating race and the 10-kilometer biathlon event were added to the program at Lake Placid, for instance, while the women's 20-km cross-country ski race made its debut here. Curling, meanwhile, woiuld have to be approved as an entirely new sport - which is much rarer. The last one to join the winter program was the luge in 1964.
Freestyle skiing also has the advantage of being decidely different from other Alpine events. It is judged a la figure skating. Scores are awarded for combining artistry and athleticism into the smooth execution of balletic and acrobatic maneuvers.
Short track speed skating differs from the current Olympic-style oval variety in that it is conducted indoors and the racing is done in packs rather than pairs. But use of indoor rinks could appeal to the international community, which generally is short on refrigerated, outdoor ovals. Even in the United States, which over the years has done quite well in Olympic speed skating, there are only two facilities, one in West Allis, Wis., and the other in Lake Placid, which was built for the 1980 games.
The super giant slalom, meanwile, is a somewhat controversial event that has both strong supporters and vociferous critics.
The latter believe that the event serves no real purpose, and was invented primarily as a means to provide downhillers with more opportunities to earn points in the season-long World Cup standings. Some skiers call it the ''stupid giant slalom,'' and seem to resent its emergence.
But Marc Hodler of Switzerland, president of the International Ski Federation (FIS) told reporters in Sarajevo that his organization felt the new event had proved itself a great success during its two-year trial period on the World Cup circuit and might well ask for its inclusion at Calgary.
Hodler said it could be requested either as a replacement for the giant slalom or as an entirely separate fourth event.
The FIS president also said he was in favor of reinstituting Alpine Combined competition, which was discontinued after 1948. He emphasized that he meant an entirely separate event such as the Olympics now have in Nordic skiing - not just the awarding of medals based on results in the regular races, as is already done by the FIS at Alpine world championship events.