Liam Morgan

One of International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach's favourite mantras is the "change or be changed" line, which he uses at every possible opportunity.

A brief scan of the new and changed events and disciplines proposed by the various International Federations (IFs) for Tokyo 2020 suggest their attitude is more along the lines of change for the sake of it.

Olympic Agenda 2020, considered to be a document plastered with rhetoric and lacking substance, aimed to "foster gender equality" at the Games. Part of this included "encouraging the inclusion of mixed-gender team events".

Some of the IFs and their working groups, most notably the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Race Walking Committee, have taken this perhaps too literally. Among their proposals is the introduction of a mixed gender 4x5,000 metres track relay. No, seriously.

In response to our story on the race walking proposal earlier this week, one member of the Twittersphere called it "bizarre", while another labelled it a "daft idea".

"The whole thing makes no sense to me, from the reasons and explanations to the proposals for changes," one comment read. Support for the plan was clearly in short supply.

Among the other questionable applications was one by the International Swimming Federation (FINA) - who are surely pushing their luck by asking the IOC for an additional 13 events at the Games in the Japanese capital - who have pushed for a mixed duet synchronised competition.

The event would prove to be historic as it would see male synchronised swimmers participate at the Olympics for the first time. That, I am afraid, is where the appeal ends.

The premise of men and women competing side by side on the greatest sporting stage in the world is both admirable and understandable. It is about time gender equality became ingrained in the fabric and fibers of the Olympics, certainly in terms of the numbers of participating athletes.

There are mixed gender team competitions that make sense and are likely to be welcome additions to the programme - the triathlon relay and the Alpine skiing mixed team race to name two - but others, such as the aforementioned events in swimming and athletics, are contrived at best.

A race walking relay is among the proposals made by the IAAF for Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images
A race walking relay is among the proposals made by the IAAF for Tokyo 2020 ©Getty Images

They are also not conforming to the IOC's desperate attempt to appeal to youth. Surely no-one within Bach's administration genuinely believes youngsters would be striving to watch mixed duet synchronised swimming? Is there really a genuine desire to see a race walking relay?

Switches to gender-equal events in shooting have caused such uproar that the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) felt the need to publicly criticise their own vice-president, Italy's Luciano Rossi, for spreading alleged "lies" about the changes to their programme. This will see three events for just male shooters - the double trap, 50 metre rifle prone and 50m pistol - replaced with mixed team competitions.

The alterations have prompted divisions within the governing body to the point where its own vice-president circulated a letter expressing deep concern, while claiming secretary general Franz Schreiber and fellow vice-president Gary Anderson had held secret talks with the IOC about the possible introduction of laser guns into the sport.

The IOC may see mixed gender team events as the way forward but it is clear not all IFs share their point of view. The ISSF did refute all suggestions made by Rossi but Italian media reported his letter had over 50 signatures - a sure sign that the opposition is more deep-rooted than they might have imagined.

Such opposition appears to be prominent regarding possible additional events at Tokyo 2020 among the general public, judging by the reaction to our revelations that at least 25 new disciplines, spanning 15 sports, were being proposed for the Games in three years' time.

It is not difficult to see why. At a time when the Olympics is facing an uncertain future amid a lack of interest in bidding for the Games, largely due to financial fears, applications are being put forward which would almost guarantee a rise in costs.

3x3 basketball is widely expected to be granted a place on the Tokyo 2020 programme ©Getty Images
3x3 basketball is widely expected to be granted a place on the Tokyo 2020 programme ©Getty Images

The IOC, however, are thought more likely to give proposals which can demonstrate they will not have an adverse effect on the overall cost of staging the Games the green light - although they are understood to favour 3x3 basketball, which would go against the grain in this regard.

Of course, many of the applications will fail. The IOC cannot accept them all and are probably reticent to do so, given their cap of 310 events at each edition of the Olympics (there were 306 at last year's Games in Rio de Janeiro) and the limit of 10,500 athletes. In defence of mixed team events, at least these will not affect the number of competitors.

But the fact that the IFs have even asked, even if some are rather hopeful, suggest they think they have a chance, however slim, of being successful.

This comes back to Agenda 2020. The move from a "sport based to event-based" Olympic programme has opened the door for the majority of sports to stake a claim for a hallowed place at the Games, ultimately resulting in the addition of baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing at Tokyo 2020.

Of the representatives of the countless non-Olympic sports I spoke to at the SportAccord Convention in Aarhus earlier this month, pretty much every single one said they would apply for 2024. IOC Athletes' Commission chair Angela Ruggiero even went as far as saying she believes Esports - essentially people playing computer games including those depicting violent war scenes - could become part of the programme one day.

High diving could be a welcome addition to the Olympic programme ©Getty Images
High diving could be a welcome addition to the Olympic programme ©Getty Images

Not only that, but disciplines such as 3x3 basketball raise other dilemmas. Will it dilute the principle format of the sport? And does the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) deserve two types of the same game on the Olympic programme? Is it innovative or unnecessary?

"Now mixed synchronised swimming and basketball 3x3 proposed for a Tokyo Olympics which can't find room for squash. What a joke," added another dissenting voice on Twitter.

I should point out that some proposals, including that of high diving by FINA, seem to have gone down well. 

But the overriding emotion appears to be there are better ways to adhere to Bach's "change or be changed" ultimatum.