Tennis players advised not to boycott Olympics
Last Updated: Thu Aug 5 12:03:55 EDT 2004
CBC SPORTS ONLINE - The head of the Women's Tennis Association urged players not to boycott the upcoming Athens Olympics to protest a German Olympic committee decision to keep two female tennis players from competing at the Games. Anca Barna and Marlene Weingartner will not play for Germany when the tennis competition begins Aug. 15, even though both players met the standards set by the International Tennis Federation, which is in charge of the entry qualifications for the event.
Marlene Weingartner from Germany celebrates winning a match at the Australian Open in 2002. (AP Photo)
Many players on the WTA tour who are going to Athens were incensed with Germany's decision. Some athletes threatened to pull out of the Olympic competition as a sign of unity.
"We discussed the matter at a players meeting on Monday," France's Nathalie Dechy told the Globe and Mail on Wednesday, "and I think there's a real chance of a boycott."
However, Larry Scott, the chief executive officer of the WTA tour, met with approximately 30 players at the Rogers Cup in Montreal late Wednesday and advised them not to pull out of the Summer Games as a form of protest.
"I did make it clear to the players, who reacted very strongly to this injustice [the German players' exclusion], that missing the Olympics, not playing in the Olympics, is not in the best interests of women's professional tennis nor the sport in general," Scott told the Globe and Mail on Thursday.
Scott added that the ITF and International Olympic Committee are involved in trying to resolve the situation, but ultimately it is the German Olympic committee's choice on which players, if any, go to Athens.
Barna and Weingartner were ranked 46th and 52nd, respectively, on the July 15 list of 56 entrants. The women's singles draw is made up of 64 players, eight of which are wildcards.
The German Olympic committee set extremely high qualification standards for its tennis players – a semifinal of a Grand Slam tournament or a final of a "tier-one" event. Barna and Weingartner did not meet either standard.
The German Olympic committee did make an exception for Florian Mayer, who also did not meet the stringent qualification.
Mayer was 53rd on the men's entry list for Athens and was initially not named to Germany's team, however, he was allowed to compete due to his performance in the Wimbledon quarter-finals this year.
The WTA feels this is unfair and is lobbying the ITF to pressure the IOC and German Olympic committee into reinstating Barna and Weingartner.
One way the WTA could put pressure on the ITF would be to withdraw ranking points for the Olympics. The WTA had agreed to award points after an ITF assurance that all qualified players would be allowed to compete.
If that scenario were to happen, some of the women's players may pull out of the Olympic competition either in support of the German athletes or because of the loss of WTA points.
This is the first Olympics where WTA and ATP tour ranking points are being awarded for the singles event.