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Tuesday, October 29, 2002
USOC out to save baseball, softball, modern pentathlon

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The U.S. Olympic Committee is getting help from some of its biggest sponsors in its bid to keep baseball, softball and modern pentathlon in the Summer Games.

A handful of key sponsors have sent letters to International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, supporting the continued existence of the sports, the head of the USOC said Monday.

''I am cautiously optimistic,'' USOC president Marty Mankamyer said. ''We figured that if we were going to lose, we were going to lose going down every way we could.''

The IOC is expected to vote whether to keep baseball, softball and modern pentathlon at a meeting next month in Mexico City. The IOC program commission has recommended adding golf and rugby in their place.

Any changes will go into effect starting with the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

''The idea is not ill-conceived that you should limit the size of the games and the expense to the cities. That is a good, sound business (decision),'' Mankamyer said.

''But they may not have thought it through.''

Rogge has said sports should be included based on, among other things, their popularity, universal appeal, cost and diversity. But Mankamyer said the IOC might have gotten bad information in determining that softball, baseball and modern pentathlon didn't meet those criteria.

And there are other ways to reduce the size of the games, Mankamyer said. Limit the number of support personnel, like the personal trainers and psychologists that accompany some athletes. Ask the individual sports to come up with areas they could cut.

Softball and baseball, for example, have come up with a condensed schedule that would allow them to share a venue, Mankamyer said.

Major league baseball is also looking at ways to include its big-name athletes. One criticism of baseball is that its biggest stars don't participate because the season overlaps with the Olympics.

''Major league baseball has been very supportive,'' Mankamyer said. ''They think with a shortened format, they would be able to try and get some of their headliners.''

The USOC is also lobbying individual members of the IOC. It's built a database that includes the country and sport background of the 120-plus members, and is reminding them it could be their sport at risk next time.

So far, Mankamyer said, the support has been positive.

''We feel we're getting an increasing number of people who are saying, 'Let's not change the program,''' she said.

While there has been some talk the IOC might delay its vote, Mankamyer said the USOC isn't counting on that.

''We can't relax just in case they change their minds,'' she said. ''So we'll be working to get their support and keep their support.''