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Monday, October 25, 2010
Updated: October 27, 11:52 PM ET
Pipe dreams: The IOC remains undecided


France's Xavier Bertoni got third in superpipe at Winter X in 2010. He could have a chance at Olympic gold in 2014 ... if the IOC would make up its mind already.

Monday was supposed to be a big news day here at ESPN Freeskiing. After meeting all last week in Acapulco, Mexico, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee was expected to announce its final decision with respect to the addition of eight new sports, including ski halfpipe, to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Its decision? Nothing.

The board members decided they would wait until after the world championships of the respective sports, all held next spring, to make their decision.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) gave ski pipe the nod in June, and then the IOC program committee followed suit earlier this month. To people involved in ski halfpipe's years-long push toward the Olympics, these were great signs, the general expectation being that ski pipe would get the final nod at this Acapulco meeting. Despite the ineffectual nature of this most recent international meeting of the top bureaucrats of sport, ski pipe's people are remaining positive.

"This delay doesn't worry me much at all," said Trennon Paynter, coach of the unofficial Canadian Halfpipe Ski Team. "If this [executive board] meeting had been to make a decision solely on ski halfpipe, I'm confident it would have been a go. It's the IOC's concerns on other prospective sports that are holding us up."

Paynter's patience with the process reflects his confidence in the worthiness of his sport, sure. But it also is telling of just how accustomed he has become to getting a run-around from the IOC.

What I do know is that the last time I didn't know how I was going to vote on something, I didn't have to use company money to travel to a famous tropical vacation destination to avoid the polling station.

How do you round up every single one of the powers that be and still come away without a decision? And why did the members of the executive board have to travel to Acapulco to not make a decision? Maybe Mario Vasquéz Raña, the lone Mexican member of the executive board, which is comprised mostly of members from Asia and Europe, couldn't find his passport. Maybe Acapulco is actually a greater international center for winter sports than Switzerland, Norway, Germany or any of the other home countries of executive board members. I don't know. What I do know is that the last time I didn't know how I was going to vote on something, I didn't have to use company money to travel to a famous tropical vacation destination to avoid the polling station.

I asked the IOC why the meeting was in Mexico, and here's what media relations manager Sandrine Tonge said in response: "The Association of National Olympic Committees general assembly was taking place in Acapulco. As there is always a joint meeting between ANOC and the IOC Executive Board, this particular Executive Board meeting had to take place in Acapulco in order to attend this joint meeting."

So the IOC executive board had to travel to Mexico because that was where the IOC ANOC was meeting. Of course. But did anybody actually go to a meeting? Given everything accomplished last week, I'd love to see the minutes from the executive board's meeting.

-- 8 a.m. President Jacques Rogge calls the meeting to order.
-- 8:04 a.m. The honorable Mr. Oswald moves for a two-hour recess to discuss committee business over Bloody Marys at Barba Roja. The honorable Mr. Fredericks seconds.
-- 10:47 a.m. Mr. Rogge calls the meeting to order.
-- 10:49 a.m. The honorable Mr. Heiberg moves to reconvene at Seņor Frog's after a 30-minute recess. Mr. Reedle seconds.

But there's something even more peculiar about the executive board's recent beach vacation. Following ski pipe's quest for admission to the Olympics -- a multiyear effort that involved establishing an organized competition series, standardizing judging formats, getting the approval of the FIS, getting the approval of the IOC program committee and finally getting approval from the executive board -- it would seem that the road to becoming an Olympic event is long and hard, with a lot of hoops to jump through. Yet, practically the only newsworthy item to come out of the IOC executive board's weekend in Acapulco is that ski slopestyle is suddenly on the list of possible additions for Sochi in 2014 (that, and that ski cross, which was introduced as a provisional sport at the 2010 Vancouver Games will remain an Olympic sport in 2014).

Simon Dumont, who placed fourth in pipe at the 2010 Winter X Games, could be America's best shot at Olympic gold in 2014. That is, if the IOC executive board would put down the margaritas and get to work.

Don't mistake me as complaining that ski slope would be considered. No way. Like ski pipe, ski slope is progressing a mile a minute, its competitive field is ballooning for both genders and the youth -- whose buying power the IOC is ever mindful of leveraging -- love it. I personally would love to watch an Olympic ski slopestyle competition in 2014, if there's enough time to broadcast it between figure skating events (a new team figure skating event also was on the executive board's list of things to fail to consider).

But think for a minute about Paynter's ascetic acceptance of the IOC's most recent delay. After a half-decade of pushing to get his sport on the world's stage, he's obviously resigned to it being a slow game of Chutes and Ladders. And one not without real consequences, at that. With ski pipe still waiting for a place on the Olympic program, Paynter's unofficial Canadian Halfpipe Ski Team will have to wait through yet another season to drop the word "unofficial" from its title. Which means waiting another year for funding and other support from Canada's national governing bodies. That goes for most other halfpipe-skiing countries, too. So when ski slope gets the unexpected fast track to the top of the list, you can see how it would be easy for a hard-working halfpipe skier to wonder what the heck all those hoops were about.

How much national funding do you think the unofficial Canadian Halfpipe Ski Team might have hoped to get this year, if its sport had been admitted to the Olympics? Do you think it's more or less than an all-expenses-paid vacation for 16 (the number of members on the IOC executive board) to Acapulco? Let's hope the next time the IOC has a decision to not make, it does it over the phone.