SOCHI, Russia (AP) — The IOC has been urged not to pay sports to attend the Olympics during talks on its relations with North American professional leagues.
The NHL has yet to commit to the Olympics beyond Sochi. Major League Baseball has refused to release top players for the Olympics. The NBA has sent elite players in its offseason since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
The subject was addressed Wednesday when 100-plus International Olympic Committee members considered “financial compensation and returns for the stakeholders for their involvement” during wide-ranging debate on strategy.
“The bottom line is we are on a slippery slope if we start paying people to come to the Olympic Games,” New Zealand member Barry Maister said. “It’s fundamentally against the Olympic movement.”
The NHL agreed to a 16-day pause freeing players for Sochi after long negotiations with the International Ice Hockey Federation. The IOC’s strict control of broadcast rights was a sticking point.
Baseball has been hampered in its attempts to regain Olympic status by its unwillingness to extend the All-Star break, which is now four days.
Still, renewed efforts with strong support in Japan have begun to include baseball and softball at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Basketball’s increased importance to the Olympics since the United States sent the original Dream Team 22 years ago was held up as a model of cooperation.
“I think that they did us a great service but we returned to basketball a great deal,” IOC member Alex Gilady of Israel said. “Now, many years later, there are already 56 European players in the NBA. It will become a lot more difficult for them not to participate in their national teams in world championships or Olympic Games.”
The most senior basketball official in the IOC said the sport “can’t do without these best athletes” at the Summer Games.
“It’s our obligation, the international federations’ obligation, to offer them this possibility,” said Patrick Baumann, an IOC member from Switzerland and secretary general of basketball’s world governing body, FIBA.
Paying individual athletes to compete at the Olympics would be “anathema” as a general principle, said former Alpine skiing great Jean Claude-Killy of France.
Earlier, athletes’ representative Adam Pengilly of Britain had suggested the IOC could help create a kind of pension fund to help competitors make the transition to normal life after their careers.