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Cycling president proposes moving Summer Olympic sports to Winter Games

International Cycling Union President Brian Cookson gestures during a press conference announcing courses for the 2015 World Cycling Championships in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.  The International World Cycling championships will be held in Richmond over nine days in September 2015
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International Cycling Union President Brian Cookson gestures during a press conference announcing courses for the 2015 World Cycling Championships in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. The International World Cycling championships will be held in Richmond over nine days in September 2015. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A bizarre plan that could dramatically change the face of the Olympics by switching several sports from the Summer Games to the winter version has been suggested by cycling's most senior figure.

And despite the best intention of Brian Cookson, the International Cycling Union's president, he should, with all due respect, be told to get on his bike.

"Let's think about the Winter Olympics," Cookson told the BBC. "Why does it have to be snow and ice?"

Despite the fact that there is probably a fairly simple answer to that question, let's give Cookson the floor for a moment.

"If you have a problem with summer Olympics where the whole thing is perceived as over-heated with too many facilities, too many sports, too many competitors and so on, why not move some of the other sports indoors that traditionally take place in the northern hemisphere winter?" he added.

"Why not look at combat sports like judo, or other indoor sports like badminton? You could even say what about putting track cycling in the Winter Olympics?"

Cookson's comments come at a nervous time for many sports within the Olympic movement, except for those rare few such as track and field, swimming and soccer that are needed by the Olympics more than the other way around. In truth, no one quite knows what is going to happen.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who came into the post in September after running on a platform of streamlining both the Olympics themselves and the bidding process for hosting them, has admitted that a sweeping review is underway. That is about as much detail as has been passed on, although the report's findings will be released at an IOC conference in Monaco at the end of this year. With such limited information out there, even long-established sports are looking over their shoulder.

The plight of wrestling, a sport entrenched in the Olympic movement even since ancient times, has done nothing to calm those concerns. Wrestling was initially axed from the Olympic program last year but was reinstated after a sustained campaign.

Cookson's sport, cycling, stands virtually no chance of being axed any time soon. But it awarded medals in 18 disciplines at London 2012 and might fear being asked to trim down by shedding a few events. Cookson actually wants to add another sport that comes under his organization's umbrella – cyclo-cross, which involves a mixture of cycling and steeplechase on a typically muddy, off-road course – but his lobbying to get it into the winter schedule has been unsuccessful.

While the need for the Games to become less unwieldy may be a pressing one, Cookson's concept just isn't a very good idea.

The point that sports like judo and badminton are played indoors during wintertime doesn't carry a whole bunch of weight. Soccer has been a winter sport internationally for its entire history, but logistical impossibilities aside, can you realistically imagine it having been fitted alongside figure skating and biathlon in Vancouver or Sochi?

In reality, the Winter Olympics is more about a concept than a climatic season. It is about sports that specifically require cold conditions or some form of ice or snow, not just those that are capable of being played in February.

Sports should never be immune to change, the Olympics included. But Cookson's argument of "Why couldn't we?" holds up no more than the question of why couldn't mixed martial arts or darts or cricket or lacrosse be implemented.

The answer is simple and it serves just as well to answer suggestions of a mass summer-to-winter sporting switch.

It is because it is not the right fit.

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