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Why is the IOC discussing changes to track cycling?

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee is meeting in Lausanne this week and will discuss radical and controversial proposed changes to the track cycling program for the 2012 Games.

Here are some questions and answers on the issue.

WHY IS THE IOC CHANGING THE PROGRAMME?

The IOC was not happy at the gender imbalance of the track cycling program, which in 2008 featured seven medal events for men but only three for women. They asked the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to come up with a fairer program and it is the UCI's proposals that are being discussed in Lausanne.

WHAT ARE THE CHANGES?

The men lose the individual pursuit, points race and madison and gain the multi-event omnium. The women lose the individual pursuit but gain a team sprint, team pursuit and omnium. That delivers a line-up of five men's events and five women's.

WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST ADD MORE WOMEN'S EVENTS?

The IOC wants to cap the numbers of athletes at the Games at around 10,400 and sports federations are under instructions that if they want to introduce new events then some existing ones have to go to make room. The UCI would have loved to have added new events but has to work within the constraints laid down by the IOC.

SO SOME PEOPLE WHO WON GOLD MEDALS IN BEIJING WILL NOT BE

ABLE TO DEFEND THEIR TITLES?

WHAT IS THE OMNIUM AND WHY IS IT BEING ADDED?

The omnium is a multi-discipline event made up of five separate races - a 200-meter time trial, a 5-km "scratch race," a 3-km individual pursuit, a 15-km points race and a 1-km time trial. Supporters of the omnium say it rewards the best all-round track cyclist and that as it runs over several days it provides good entertainment for fans and on TV.

Critics say the best performers in classic events such as the pursuit and time trial will not have a chance to shine, that the races are too confusing for supporters to follow and that the gold medal can be won by a rider who does not win any of the individual races.

WHY ARE THE CHANGES CAUSING SO MUST UNREST IN THE CYCLING

WORLD?

Many cycling fans are angry about the changes, particularly the removal of the individual pursuit, saying that there is now no individual endurance event. The pursuit, where riders start of opposite sides of the track and effectively chase each other, is easy to follow and always a crowd favorite. It was already part of the program for men and women so there seemed little logic in removing it as part of a plan to equalize the genders.

There is also discontent that the changes were rushed through by the UCI's management committee with very little consultation with individual federations.

WILL THE IOC ACCEPT THE CHANGES?

Traditionally the IOC tends to go along with the proposals of its sports federations but it is not obliged to.

(Editing by Dave Thompson)