Special Edition: Refuting IOC’s Plan to End Modern Pentathlon Competition

The recent decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop the modern pentathlon from the Olympic Games has prompted Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich, president of the United States Sports Academy, and the editors of The Sport Journal to publish a special edition bringing attention to this grave matter. We join the call that has gone out from various quarters to retain the modern pentathlon. It is a vital component of the Olympic Games and an important historic tradition. The special edition features the opinions of several IOC members, reproduced from four sources.

The first source is an abridged version of a letter from Klaus Schormann, president of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), to IOC President Jacques Rogge:

Monaco, 5 November 2002

According to our discussion during our last meeting in Lausanne [Switzerland], the UIPM is sending a summary of its arguments and response to the Program Commission report which it feels appropriate to be considered for the sport of modern pentathlon to remain in the Olympic program. These arguments, which cover a larger spectrum than those developed by the Program Commission, should be given to the IOC executive board prior to their last meeting in November, and to the IOC members in case the matter would be voted during the session in Mexico.

I. Answer to the arguments of the Program Commission

Lack of global participation by nations and individual athletes
Ninety-four nations from five continents are now affiliated with the UIPM (more are coming, as they are in establishment procedure), while the Olympic Charter requires 75 nations in four continents. The sport meets the criteria of the Olympic Charter. We want to remind that Pierre de Coubertin founded the sport in 1912 from scratch, on the model of the ancient pentathlon, the symbolic and complete sport of the Ancient Games, which means that this sport has never stopped growing since its creation.

—Significant expense of practicing the sport, with resulting difficulties in major development
Modern pentathlon is not more significantly expensive than most of the other Olympic sports or than those willing to enter the Olympic program. The change of its format to the one-day in 1992 and the new shooting system (air pistols instead of guns) have reduced the costs for organizing and training. Facilities already used by other sports are also for modern pentathlon, inside and outside of Olympic Games, for competing, training, and studying. The new compactness of venues in many cities gives new possibilities for modern pentathlon. The reduction of the costs for sport equipment (including horse riding) brings new possibilities. It is to be noted that pentathletes do not need to have a horse of their own, are not charged for that in competitions, and that the use of local horses does not require any guarantee.

—High operational complexity
Experience with organization of UIPM events on all continents and in the previous Olympic Games shows that all organizers were able easily to offer facilities for the five disciplines of modern pentathlon (shooting, fencing, swimming, riding, running) within walking distance. It is to be noted that no specific venue is required for the modern pentathlon, and that UIPM has developed a policy of polyvalent international technical officials. Modern pentathlon helps to a more efficient use of venues used at Games time. The official report of the XXVII Olympiad made by SOCOG makes a clear statement on this.

Relatively low broadcast and press coverage
The relatively low broadcast stated by the Program Commission does not fit the statistics established by the UIPM, which can easily be checked. . . . All major UIPM events on all five continents were covered by international TV during the last seven years. Due to its TV coverage, the UIPM has developed a successful marketing program . . . which is in very good standing in comparison with other Olympic sports.

II. Arguments which should be taken into consideration by the IOC to keep modern pentathlon in the Olympic program

Modern pentathlon is the only sport that has ever been created in its entirety by Pierre de Coubertin and the IOC, as the Ancient sports were created by the Ancient Greeks, and therefore [has] a symbolic value within the Olympic Games.
It was especially designed on the model of the ancient pentathlon in order to show all possible skills developed, through five sport events, in one single athlete, and not for a massive number of participants. It is important for the sake of the Olympic tradition.

—Modern pentathlon, from the skills it develops, has an educational value.
[It is] a complete sport: On the physical side, swimming, running are the basic disciplines; on the mental side, shooting requires stress control and a precise technique; on the intellectual side, fencing requires adaptability and intelligence; riding an unknown horse requires a mix of adaptability, self-control, and courage.

—Modern pentathlon has an entertainment function at the Olympic Games.
Since the Atlanta Olympic Games and the introduction of the one-day format, the interest of spectators at Games time has grown dramatically, which can be easily shown by statistics on the number of spectators at the Sydney Games (full venue and 15,000 spectators per session) and by an independent survey published in the Olympic Review.

An Olympic sport with reasonable number of athletes and with a high representation of NOCs.
Only 32 women and 32 men, a total of 64 athletes (in fact around 0.5% of the total athletes number), competing for only two days (six medals), which means that modern pentathlon, as one of the 28 sports of the Olympic program, has a very limited impact on the overall number of athletes in the Games. Remarks: The average number of athletes for the other sports is (10500 – 64) /27 = 386/ At the same time, modern pentathlon gives to many NOCs the possibility to take part in the Olympic Games. In Sydney 48 pentathletes competed while 24 NOCs were represented. This means 50% of the quota was dedicated to NOCs’ representation, which is the highest value of all Olympic sports.

A drug-free sport.
Since the one-day format has been created and due to the permanent efforts of the UIPM, modern pentathlon has become a drug-free sport. The one-day format has discouraged prohibited behaviors, as there is no interest in using drugs for shooting when fencing comes right after it. Anabolic substances are not useful in a sport that does not place the success of the winner only on his physical skills, but in his overall physical and intellectual harmony.

—UIPM, a flexible organization.
In addition to the changes in the modern pentathlon’s format, the UIPM has created an ad hoc commission looking at the optimal evolution of the sport for the future. The purpose is to keep to symbolic construction of modern pentathlon in placing its complete skills first, but looking, at the same time, at its events in order to fit with the evolution of sport practice in general. This commission already collaborates with the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee and intends to do the same with the other international federations and the IOC.

—Modern pentathlon is a symbolic sport for the Olympic Movement.
Modern pentathlon is a true representation of the Olympic Movement. The five Olympic rings are reflected in modern pentathlon’s five events and participation from all five continents. It is a true sport of the Olympic Games, created by the founder of the Modern Games, Pierre de Coubertin, and reflecting the ideals embodied by the Olympic Movement. It has to remain an indefatigable part of it.

The concept and the philosophy of the pentathlon are 2,710 years old, as described by Aristotle: “The most perfect sportsmen are the pentathletes, because in their bodies strength and speed are combined in beautiful harmony.” Created by the Greeks and renovated by the founder of the [Modern] Games, it shows the symbolic complete athlete in his body, will, and mind as stated and described in Fundamental Principle 2 of the Olympic Charter. Let’s keep this part of the soul of the Olympics, let’s keep it on the field of play, let’s see it on the stadium, and not only in the Olympic Museum in the future!

Table 1

The 28 Sports of the Olympic Program, Participating NOCs, and Disqualification Quotas

  Total Participating NOCs Total Disqualification Quotas Percentage
AcquaticsDiving 42 158 27%
AcquaticsSwimming 150 983 15%
AcquaticsSynchro Swim 24 104 23%
AcquaticsWater Polo 13 234   6%
Archery 46 128 36%
Athletics 194 2468 8%
Badminton 28 172 16%
Baseball 8 192 4%
Basketball 18 288 6%
Boxing 75 312 24%
CanoeSlalom 21 83 25%
CanoeSprint 43 265 16%
CyclingMountain Bike 33 80 41%
CyclingRoad 44 216 20%
CyclingTrack 38 190 20%
Equestrian 37 204 18%
Fencing 40 200 20%
Football 20 432 5%
GymnasticsArtistic 43 195 22%
GymnasticsRythmic 20 84 24%
Handball 19 329 6%
Hockey 15 352 4%
Judo 90 400 23%
Modern Pentathlon 24 48 50%
Rowing 51 549 9%
Sailing 69 404 17%
Shooting 103 411 25%
Softball 8 120 7%
Taekwondo 51 103 50%
Table Tennis 48 172 28%
Tennis 52 192 27%
Triathlon 34 100 34%
VolleyballBeach 23 96 24%
Volleyball 17 288 6%
Weightlifting 76 264 29%
Wrestling 55 319 17%

The second source reproduced in this special edition is HSH Prince Albert Monaco’s address to the IOC in Switzerland on behalf of the cause of the modern pentathlon:

HSH Prince Albert reaffirms Modern Pentathlon as soul of Olympic Movement, to be maintained for the sake of olympic tradition & values

I’m here not only because I am the honorary president of the UIPM, nor because Monaco is host to the headquarters of the UIPM. I’m here above all as an IOC member who is fearful that some very important part of the values and the philosophy of the Olympic Movement handed down to us by Baron Pierre de Coubertin might be lost forever if modem pentathlon should disappear from the program. The cultural dimension of this sport, its ancient roots and the educational value of its different components, are an important legacy for the IOC, for the Olympic Movement. This dimension is more important than the sport itself; the consequences of its demise larger than any one of us in this room.

Some people will argue that tradition and values are not the only elements that should guide us. If you look around you, watch TV, or read a newspaper article, you will find quite a few people saying the opposite: that a society has lost points of reference, that values have diminished. Why not continue to provide our youth with the kind of values and symbol that this sport possesses, and that they obviously are looking for? Why challenge a sport that celebrates and showcases the versatile, complete athlete? According to the latest figures from the Sydney Olympic Games, more people than ever seem interested in watching athletes test their abilities in combined events.

Is it right to deny the development of a sport that is growing in popularity and has sustained youth programs? There is a quotation from a young Cuban athlete in your brochure, “I want to compete in modem pentathlon at the Beijing Olympic Games.” Is it right to deny Jose Fernandez and his friends the opportunity to realize his dreams in an existing Olympic sport?

Having said all this, we are not stifled in tradition, we are not dinosaurs, we are willing to be open to change, if it is for the better.

The American philosopher and author Tom Wolfe once wrote, in his book The Search for Excellence,  “We must learn to accept change, as much as we hated to in the past.” I’m sure he meant changes in our society, changes in behavior, changes in economics, etc., not changes in our values.

The values of education and culture, and understanding through sport, are everlasting and something we in the Olympic Movement should hold sacred.

The third source reproduced in the special edition is a further communication written by Klaus Schormann, UIPM president:

I am just back in my home after a lot of traveling. . . . In Busan during the Asian Games (modern pentathlon was included, with the whole competition-program: individual women/men and relay women/men and team-medal. I could speak with a lot of IOC members, NOC presidents, and media people. As you can see [Table 2], my schedule for the next weeks is very busy; therefore, I think we should meet in Colorado Springs at the GAISF meeting (20 to 24.11.2002). I send you some documents about the “IOC Program Commission” and our actions now, for your information. UIPM needs from all institutions of international-sport-scene support: Public statements . . . for modern pentathlon are needed.

Table 2

UIPM President Klaus Schormann’s Schedule, September to December 2002

06. 08.09.2002 Biathle World Championships Cagliari ITA
09. 10.09. Executive Board UIPM Cagliari ITA
11.09. working-meeting NOC-Germany
– only Presidents –
Frankfurt/M GER
12.09. meeting DOG-Darmstadt Darmstadt GER
13.09. Freiburger Kreis SEMINAR
– Clubs / Federations –
statement DSB President M.v. RichtMofen
Darmstadt GER
14.09. meeting with business-people Stuttgart GER
18. 21.09. meetings in Beijing-BOCOG
– Olympic Games 2008
meetings with IOC Members
Beijing CHN
23. 30.09. Junior World Championships
and meetings with IOC Members
Sydney AUS
04.10. meeting with IOC President Rogge Lausanne SUI
08. 15.10. Asian Games in Busan
and meetings with IOC Members
Busan KOR
17.10. Council LSB Hessen
– Federations
Frankfurt/M GER
18. 20.10. 40th anniversary MP Bavaria
– Gala and competition –
Munich GER
24. 27.10. Pan American Championships
– Qualification Pan American Games 2003 –
Rio de Janeiro BRA
31.10. meeting in Rome WCH-2003-Pesaro Rome ITA
02. 03.11. General Assembly NOC Germany NUrnberg GER
08. 09.11. General Assembly MP-Germany/DVMF Darmstadt GER
15.11. 100th anniversary German Tennis Fedr Berlin Berlin GER
21. 24.11. GAISF General Assembly
ASOIF Extraordinary GS go 11 USA
Colorado Springs USA
26. 29.11. IOC-EB and Extraordinary Session Mexico-City MEX
04. 07.12. DSB-Congress and General Assembly Bonn GER
07. 15.12. EB-UIPM and General Assembly UIPM Cairo EGY

The fourth source reproduced in the special edition is an abridged version of a UIPM press release dated 8 October 2002:

UIPM Delegation Visits IOC Regarding the Olympic Program; HSH Prince Albert Reaffirms Modern Pentathlon as the Soul of the Olympic Movement, to be Maintained for the Sake of Olympic Tradition and Values; International Pierre De Coubertin Committee and DeCoubertin’s Family Call for Pentathlon’s Respect and Promotion

On 4 October, a UIPM delegation composed of President Klaus Schormann, Honorary President HSH Prince Albert of Monaco, First Vice President Juan Antonio Samaranch, and Secretary General Joel Bouzou was welcomed at the IOC headquarters by IOC President Jacques Rogge, accompanied by Sport Director Gilbert Felli and his new assistant, Olivier Lenglet.

The purpose of the meeting was to answer to the Program Commission’s recommendation to the IOC executive board and to present additional arguments to be considered by the IOC executive board before their final decision during their meeting in Mexico City, 26 and 27 November.

After the opening by IOC President Rogge, UIPM President Klaus Schormann referred to the letter sent to the IOC that answered the points raised by the technical report of the Program Commission. [As Schormann noted,] “We now have more than 95 countries in the five continents. . . . De Coubertin started the sport from scratch in 1912, and the media coverage of our events has dramatically increased since the adoption of the one-day format. Our sport is only using existing venues during the Games and therefore is not expensive, as stated in the report. Equally, compact venues in modern cities allow more and more pentathletes to practice the sport and combine it with studies.

President Schormann also mentioned the surveys made during the last Olympic Games by an independent observer, Prof. Dr. Mfiller from the research group of the Gutenberg University in Mainz, and by SOCOG, which both support the UIPM counter-arguments. Dr Rogge confirmed that he took into account the point made by President Schormann concerning the flexibility of UIPM in terms of the sports evolution.

UIPM Secretary General Bouzou recalled that modem pentathlon does not need any specific venue for the Games; that most modem cities have multisport complexes adapted to the organization of modem pentathlon; that nine modem pentathlon major competitions are seen on international TV in the five continents; that, as stated by SOCOG (in a post-Games report), “[T]he quality of competition and sports presentation, combined with the most comprehensive television coverage ever of modem pentathlon in Olympic Games history, ensured first-class viewing for live spectators and global television audiences.” He also acknowledged the fact that modem pentathlon is not, and will never be, practiced by millions of athletes throughout the world. However, it was never designed for this by the founder of the Games, Pierre de Coubertin, but to be used as a living symbol of all values within a single sport. This was the reason why exceptional personalities like General Patton or Chevalier Raoul Mollet chose this sport in their respective athletic times.

UIPM Vice President Samaranch reminded that 15,000 spectators attended each of the two days of modem pentathlon at the Sydney Olympic Games, in sold-out venues, and that there are only 64 athletes competing in modem pentathlon, which represents only 0.5% of the overall number, and, therefore, that taking the sport out of the program would not affect the reality in terms of cost.

IOC President Rogge, following the presentation of all the arguments, informed the UIPM delegation that he would ensure they would all be duly reported on to the IOC executive board.

Professor Dr. Norbert Muller, president of the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee, wrote a letter to the IOC president saying that he had been “informed with great regrets about the proposal of the program commission,” adding that, “this sport represents the real legacy of Pierre de Coubertin, which he elaborated personally when he wanted to showcase the Perfect Olympic Man or Woman.” [Muller] transmitted an appeal from the committee, saying, “[T]he personal legacy of Pierre de Coubertin should be respected and modem pentathlon permanently included.”

Mr. Geoffroy de Navacelle de Coubertin, the great-nephew of Pierre de Coubertin, also wrote to the IOC president, saying, “Let me tell you my astonishment and my emotion. I have always decided not to interfere with the IOC business. I am simply concerned in making sure that the achievements and the philosophy of Pierre de Coubertin will be respected. This sport is the most symbolic one in showing the perfect athlete. Should you not promote and support it in order to make it grow, instead of only promoting ‘specialists’ which media like so much?” De Coubertin had contacted Schormann . . . in order to create a permanent Pierre de Coubertin Commission within UIPM, that he would lead, the role of which will be to promote the philosophy of the founder “on the ground,” particularly through modem pentathlon events, in close cooperation with the International Pierre de Coubertin Committee, throughout the entire world. The Pierre de Coubertin Commission was established 1 October 2002, comprising the following members: de Coubertin, Schormann, Muller, Bouzou, and modern pentathlon Olympic champions Dr. Stephanie Cook [of Great Britain] and Janus Peciak [of Poland].

Author’s Note:

Correspondence regarding this articLEwhould go to:

Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM)
Tel. +377,9777 8555 Fax.+377 9777 8550
E-mail: pentathlon@monaco.mc
For more on Pentathlon, visit the website: http://www.pentathlon.org
08.10.2002/ JB