July 2011

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Carlos O'Brien

Traders will have to find a new late-day pastime now that the Olympics are drawing to a close.

Like much of the nation, Wall Street traders were captivated by curling, an Olympic sport akin to bocce on ice. Participants slide round stones down the ice, aiming at a bull's-eye-style target. On Wall Street, curling became a hot topic because the business-mad CNBC cable-television network, which is on in most trading rooms, switched to curling coverage at 5 p.m. EST.

At Morgan Stanley, traders swiveled their chairs toward the big flat-screen TVs mounted on the trading-room walls each afternoon to catch the latest games. Discussion topics included the correct pronunciation of long Scandinavian names, abilities of male versus female competitors, and just-what-the-heck-are-the-rules-anyway.

CNBC reports that viewership is up sharply compared with when it aired winter sports during the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Lauren Etter

What Makes a Sport Olympic?

Snowboarders have grabbed the early spotlight at this year's Winter Olympic Games in a demonstration of how the roster of winter events has expanded.

More than 2,600 athletes from 80 countries are competing in 84 different events in Turin, Italy -- an Olympic record. And more athletes are banging on the door of the International Olympic Committee to get in.

The International Olympic Committee says decisions on whether to admit more sports are made with an eye to maintaining the integrity of the Games, as well as controlling costs. In early February, the committee decided to cut baseball and softball as Summer Olympic sports, saying that not enough countries play the Games to warrant keeping them in. Here's a primer:

What's new at the Winter Games?

The biggest additions to this year's competition are the snowboardcross and freestyle-skiing events. Snowboardcross competitors -- four at once -- must navigate a series of curves and dips while trying to avoid being shoved over by the other aggressive boarders. Some have likened it to Nascar on snow. Freestyle skiing is a combination of aerial tricks and moguls -- bumps in the snow.

There have also been some subtle changes in an attempt to make some events more television-friendly. For instance, the biathlon competitors are starting en masse instead of individually, and the winner will be the first athlete to cross the finish line, instead of the athlete with the fastest time.

What are the criteria for Olympic sports and events?

In Olympics parlance, a "sport," like skiing, can include multiple "events," like women's cross-country and men's ski jumping. The Winter Olympics has seven sports -- biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing -- and 84 events. The Summer Olympics has 28 sports and about 300 events.

For a sport to pass muster, it must be played in at least 25 countries and on three continents, and has to be admitted seven years before it makes its Olympic debut. An event needs to have been included at least twice in world or continental championships, and must be played by men in at least 50 countries or women in at least 35 countries. Events have to wait three years for their Olympic debut.

What sports are waiting to get in?

There are four sports that have requested inclusion for the 2014 Winter Games: ski archery, mountaineering, orienteering -- a ski race that uses maps and compasses -- and bandy, an ancestor of ice hockey. Women ski-jumpers are trying to get the International Ski Federation to recommend their event for inclusion in the next Winter Olympics. The IOC says it's unsure it will make the cut since "it's not quite a renowned sport for women right now."

For the Summer Games, as many as 20 sports are angling to get in, including tug-of-war and korfball -- which is similar to basketball, but includes men and women on the same team.

What sports are on their way out?

Sports are seldom cut from either the Summer or the Winter Games. Baseball and softball are the first sports to be eliminated since 1936, when polo was axed.

No winter sports or events are currently thought to be on the chopping block, in part because the Winter Olympics has fewer events than the Summer Games. No sport has ever been cut from the Winter Games and the only event to be cut is "military patrol," a precursor to the modern-day biathlon. Curling and ice dancing often come under scrutiny, with people claiming that neither are "sports" in the truest sense of word. But both have loyal followings, and Olympic historian David Wallechinsky insists that curling can be "kind of hypnotic" once the layperson gets past the brooms and stones and begins to understand the strategy involved.

L. Robbins

What about baseball and softball? Can you believe they were both eliminated? Water Polo is still in.


But do you really want all those 80 year old Floridians at the summer Olympics? Old people smell, and don't even get me started on the sweating.

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