IOC Pulls a Switch : Winter and Summer Games Won’t Be Held in Same Year After ’92

Times Staff Writer

In a move that was remarkable for its substance and the manner in which it was approved, the International Olympic Committee voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to change the cycle of the Winter Games so that they will not fall in the same year as the Summer Olympics.

The change, termed revolutionary by one of its architects, Switzerland’s Marc Hodler, will take effect after 1992. That will be the last year that both Winter and Summer Olympics will be held in the same year, a tradition that began with the first Winter Games in 1924.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Oct. 16, 1986 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 16, 1986 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 16 Column 4 Sports Desk 1 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
The name of the chairman of the Anchorage Olympic Organizing Committee, one of seven groups bidding for the 1992 Olympic Winter Games, was spelled incorrectly in Wednesday’s editions. His name is Rick Mystrom.

The Winter Olympics will be staged again in 1994, then will resume a four-year cycle. The year for the next Summer Olympics will remain 1996.


Considered even more revolutionary was that the proposal was adopted after little discussion, a rarity for the ponderous IOC, and virtually without opposition, also rare considering the vast range of political and ideological stances represented by the 86 IOC members meeting here.

Of the 85 members who voted Tuesday, the second day of the annual IOC session, 78 favored the change, which was recommended unanimously Saturday by the executive board. There were two who voted no and five abstentions.

The IOC, again disregarding its conservative nature, voted to allow professional hockey players, including those who compete in the National Hockey League, to participate in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.

The IOC also accepted a rule of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which governs track and field, allowing athletes who once were professionals in other sports to compete internationally. Widely referred to as the “Nehemiah rule,” the measure restores Olympic eligibility to hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah, who played professional football for the San Francisco 49ers.

The IOC, however, tabled a proposal to allow all professional tennis players into the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. The matter will be discussed again at the IOC session next May in Istanbul.

As an example of the broad support for the proposal to change the cycle of the Winter Games, two of the leading proponents in addresses to the session were Vitaly Smirnov of the Soviet Union and Robert Helmick of the United States.

“To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never before in the history of Olympism has a new idea been found to be so acceptable in such a short time,” said Hodler, president of the International Ski Federation and an IOC executive board member.

Even the two members who voted no, Australia’s Kevan Gosper and Norway’s Jan Staubo, said they did so because they wanted more time to study the proposal and not because they were in opposition.

Their position was echoed by the U.S. Olympic Committee’s secretary general, Gen. George Miller, who is not an IOC member but is here to support Anchorage’s bid for the 1992 Winter Games.

Miller said he was disappointed to learn that one of the proposal’s principal supporters was Helmick, president of the USOC.

“I asked Helmick to throw his body in front of it,” Miller said.

Instead, Helmick threw his body behind it.

Miller said he was concerned about the effect of the change on the USOC’s marketing efforts and on television rights fees, particularly for the 1994 Winter Olympics.

“At first blush, everyone seems to think this is a good idea,” Miller said. “That may also be the case at last blush. I just wish the IOC had taken more time to consider all the ramifications.”

The only other negative sentiment was expressed by Finland’s Peter Tallberg, president of the IOC’s athletes’ committee.

“Every other committee was consulted but the athletes,” Tallberg said. “I don’t think the athletes will have any objections, but the decision should have been postponed until they were at least asked whether they support it.”

Although IOC members said there were several reasons for the change, the primary motivation was believed to be the potential for increased television rights fees for the Winter Olympics.

Said one person close to the USOC who asked to remain unidentified: “Let’s face it, Roone Arledge went to (IOC President Juan Antonio) Samaranch and said, ‘If you want more money for the winter, you have to change the dates.’ This was a made-for-television deal.”

Arledge, president of ABC News, was the force behind the network’s recent negotiations for the Olympics.

Hodler said that Samaranch presented the idea to him in August. It since has been endorsed by all six international sports federations involved in the Winter Olympics.

“In the past, national Olympic committees have had to put together two teams in the same year,” said Italy’s Franco Carraro, an IOC member who was influential in selling the proposal in Europe.

“As soon as the winter was completed, they had to begin preparing for the summer. It was a tremendous burden. Now, they can put together one team and wait two more years before they have to put together another one. That is a major positive feature.”

Carraro also said that winter athletes will hold the public’s attention longer because it will not be shifted so soon to the summer athletes.

“Before, the Winter Games were considered a warmup for the Summer Games,” Carraro said. “But now they are very important in their own right and should not have to share the stage.”

But the proposal’s most positive feature was that the television networks would be willing to pay more for it.

“The rights fees and production costs of the Olympics are enormous,” said Canada’s Richard Pound, chairman of the IOC’s television committee. “It’s very difficult for networks to work those costs into the same yearly budget. They’ll be able now to spread those costs out. My guess is they’ll love this.”

Also encouraged by the change were officials of the Anchorage Organizing Committee, one of seven cities bidding for the 1992 Winter Games. Six cities are bidding for the 1992 Summer Games. IOC members will vote Friday.

“The only negative that people bring up to us is that they don’t want to put the Winter Games back in North America so soon after they are in Calgary in 1988,” said Rick Nystrom, chairman of the Anchorage committee.

“But they can vote for us now, figuring that Europe will have to wait only two more years for the 1994 Winter Games instead of four more years.”

Nystrom said that even if the 1992 Winter Games are not awarded to Anchorage, he is optimistic that the city will win the bid for 1994.

Hodler said that the 1994 host city probably will be selected at the September, 1988 IOC session in Seoul.

The six cities that lose here are expected to submit bids for 1994. Other possible candidates are Leningrad and Lausanne.

There was a question to Hodler in a press conference about how the founder of the Modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, would have reacted to the change.

According to his writings, de Coubertin, who died in 1937, believed that the Olympic movement was threatened by overexposure because of the addition in 1924 of the Winter Games. With the IOC’s latest vote, the Winter Games are expected to get more exposure than ever.

“We have recently received new volumes of his works,” Hodler said. “We reserve the right to decide later whether there is a conflict. But I can tell you that I have stood on his grave in Lausanne, and I didn’t hear anything.”