Sunday, August 7, 2016

Modern pentathlon not modern enough

With the 2016 Summer Olympics underway in Rio de Janeiro, it’s time for me to go on my every-four-years rant about how the lineup of sports in the Summer Games needs to be revamped.
First, I’m against having sports in the Olympics that already have a world championship equivalent or major professional analog. Therefore, I’d scrap the following sports: soccer (the World Cup is enough), basketball, rugby, tennis and golf (the Olympics canceled this one, but brought it back). The same goes for baseball, which is set to return to the Olympics in 2020 in Tokyo.
Second, I’d dump equestrian events from the Olympics. Those sports are as much about the horse as the athlete. Plus, that would mean one less venue a city would have to pay to construct.
Third, I’d get rid of sports that look silly today or that likely wouldn’t exist anymore if not for the Olympics keeping them alive. In this category, I’d eliminate race walk (an oxymoron if ever there was one), badminton, fencing, rhythmic gymnastics, field hockey, synchronized swimming and table tennis.
Along the same lines, I’d scrap the following games from track and field: discus throw, hammer throw and shot put. Of course, the decathlon and heptathlon would have to be modified as a result.
The International Olympic Committee is more likely to add sports than eliminate them unfortunately.
In June, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee supported adding five sports for the Tokyo 2020 games: karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball. The event program for the 2020 games will be finalized in mid-2017.
Finally, one sport I’d like to see modernized is the modern pentathlon.
The modern pentathlon has been a core sport of the Olympics since 1912. It comprises five very different events: fencing, 200-meter freestyle swimming, equestrian show jumping, and a final combined event of pistol shooting and a 3,200-meter cross-country run.
The contest was created to simulate the experience of a 19th-century cavalry soldier behind enemy lines: he must ride an unfamiliar horse, fight enemies with pistol and sword, swim, and run to return to his own soldiers, according to Wikipedia and the New York Times.
I say modernize the sport for today’s audiences. Make it more like a Jason Bourne competition to find the most bad-ass warrior.
Keep the swimming, cross-country run and pistol-shooting. But replace the horse jumping with a motorcycle race and swap out fencing for hand-to-hand combat of some type, such as mixed martial arts. I'd bet sports fans and TV audiences would eat that up.

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