Olympic preview - new events

Posted: Monday, September 11, 2000

SYDNEY FOR STARTERS

New Sports: Taekwondo, Triathlon.

New Disciplines: Trampolining (M&W), Modern Pentathlon (W), Water Polo (W), Weightlifting (W).

New Events: Hammer Throw (W), Pole Vault (W), 20k Walk (W), Sailing 49er class (mixed), Trap Shooting (W), Skeet Shooting (W), Duet Synchronized Swimming (W), Synchronized Diving (M&W), 3m and 10m Cycling, 500m time trial (W), Cycling Olympic Sprint (M), Cycling Keirin (M), Cycling Madison (M).

Only the International Olympic Committee would be arrogant enough to call taekwondo new.

The Korean martial art is believed to have existed since the Koguryo era, for some 2000 years, but because it will be contested for the first time in the Olympics at the 2000 Summer Games, it will be introduced as a "new'' sport.

That definition might be more appropriate for the other addition for Sydney, triathlon, which will debut in the Olympics only 26 years after its invention. And, while that event will be the same age as the average U.S. athlete in Sydney, the endurance-based extension of the 1970's California fitness craze will be viewed as the Olympic equivalent of an ancient Asian discipline. Go figure.

Such verbal contortions by the IOC are not unique when even the term "sport'' is relative in Olympic usage.

Trampolining will be a medal event for the first time in Sydney. So will women's weightlifting, synchronized diving and women's pole vault. Women's trap and skeet shooting and sailing's 49er class will also be making their debuts at the Games this summer. But none of those will be considered new sports, not even sports, really.

In fact, of the 20 competitions being introduced in 2000, only taekwondo and triathlon will be listed as new sports, the rest categorized as either disciplines or individual events of existing sports. In all, the Sydney Games will include 300 competitions 168 for men, 120 for women and 12 with mixed fields.

This time, even "new'' is relative.

A demonstration sport in Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in '92, Taekwondo will technically be returning to the Olympics when it is held Sept. 27-30 at Sydney's State Sports Centre and contested in four men's and four women's weight classes.

Originally developed as a self-defense technique, the sport consists of a variety of strong, angular kicks and swift circular movements. It is scored similarly to boxing, with three-round bouts being decided either by knockout or the accumulation of points.

Triathlon, while less traditional, is perhaps more identifiable with the abiding principles of the summer Olympics running, swimming, cycling.

In separate men's and women's races, competitors will swim 1.5k in Sydney Harbour followed by a 40k bike ride and 10k run around the Sydney Opera House and the surrounding Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain. The course will not only provide a picturesque backdrop, but also offer a rare opportunity for spectators to watch an Olympic event for free.

The women's race will be held Sept. 16, the day after the opening ceremonies, and will represent the first medal opportunity in Sydney. The men's race will be the next day.

And upon the completion of both, there will be another turn of an Olympic phrase. The new will already be old.



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