IOC approves new events for 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The IOC approved new events Monday in snowboarding, Alpine skiing, speedskating and curling for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Big Air in snowboarding, mass start in speedskating, mixed doubles in curling, and a team skiing event were the additions ratified Monday by the International Olympic Committee executive board.
The snowboard parallel slalom event, meanwhile, was dropped from the Olympic program to make room for Big Air.
Under IOC rules, events and disciplines can be added or removed up until three years before the games. The new events are for men and women.
The IOC has been determined to attract younger audiences, as evidenced by the addition of halfpipe and slopestyle events at recent Winter Olympics.
''The changes reflect the continued evolution of the Winter Olympic program and build on the success of recent editions of the games,'' the IOC said in a statement. ''They also build on the reforms outlined in Olympic Agenda 2020 which aim to create more flexibility into the Olympic program of the Olympic Games.''
The IOC recommends the participation of about 2,900 athletes competing in 100 events for the Winter Games.
The Pyeongchang organizing committee said it ''respects'' the IOC decision, which will add four more gold medal events to the games for a total of 102. The South Korean organizers said it will be the first Winter Games in history with more than 100 medal events.
The IOC said decisions on which new events to accept for 2018 were based on a number of factors, including youth appeal, TV and media interest, gender equality and ''infrastructure and operational cost and complexity.''
The IOC said the new program will ensure a record number of female events, mixed events and female athletes.
It looks like snowboard's Big Air will be the latest step in the goal to appeal to youth.
In Big Air events, boarders fly off a highly pitched ramp similar to those on the slopestyle course, and perform jumps with multiple flips and spins. They do as many jumps as possible in an allotted amount of time.
Big Air events in freestyle skiing had also been proposed for Olympic inclusion but did not win IOC approval.
The International Skating Union has also been looking to make Olympic speedskating more exciting for fans.
Mass start races would add intrigue, team tactics and a direct confrontation of skating styles in a long-distance event. It could also bring some of the push and shove elements of short track to the Olympic big oval - something likely to displease purists.
Curling has had two events, separate men's and women's competitions, since returning to the Olympics in 1998.
While traditional curling involves teams of four players, mixed doubles would include teams of two players - one male and one female. Teams would have six stones each, instead of eight.
The new Alpine skiing event involves teams of two men and two women competing in parallel slalom races. The team event has been part of the world championships and the World Cup finals.
''We believe that adding new events will make the 2018 Winter Games more innovative,'' Pyeongchang organizing committee leader Cho Yang-ho said.
The committee added that the new events ''will have very limited impact on the overall games operations.''
The IOC is also still working on the program for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Under a new procedure, Japanese organizers can propose the addition of one or more sports for their games.
Baseball and softball - both out of the Olympics since the 2008 Beijing Games - are considered the favorites to be included in Tokyo because of their popularity in Japan. A final decision will be made in August 2016 on the eve of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.