Olympics-Women's Nordic combined not part of 2026 Olympics-IOC

FILE PHOTO: The Olympic rings are pictured in front of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, May 17, 2022. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

(Reuters) -Women's Nordic combined will not feature in the programme of the 2026 Milan and Cortina Winter Olympics in Italy because it lacks universality and the men's Olympic spot is also at risk due to low interest, the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.

The decision means Nordic combined, where athletes compete in cross-country skiing and ski jumping, remains the only Winter Olympic discipline where women are not allowed to compete, despite them now having a world championships and World Cup circuit.

The IOC also warned the men's competition was facing major challenges and needed to do more to boost global interest or risk losing out on the 2030 winter Games.

"The first (women's) world championship was in 2021 and there are just 10 nations and at the podium there is just one nation," said Karl Stoss, who heads the IOC's programme commission.

Norway won all three medals in women's Nordic combined at last year's world championships.

"So these are not fulfilling the criteria of universality and this is one very crucial point, also for the men's for the future, to do a little bit more for the universality in the sport," Stoss told a virtual news conference following an IOC Executive Board meeting.

Stoss said it was crucial to make the sport more popular outside Europe where it enjoys a stronger following.

"It's very interesting for us for the European countries, but outside of Europe, you couldn't find athletes to do the sport. We will discuss it in the next few months... to do a little bit more for 2030."

At the last three winter editions of the Olympics, the 27 medals available in Nordic combined were won by athletes from only four countries, the IOC said.

"In addition, Nordic combined had by far the lowest audience numbers during those Games," it said in a statement.

"The decisive argument for keeping Nordic combined on the Olympic programme for 2026 was the situation of the male athletes, for whom the Olympic Games are only three-and-a-half years away and who have already been preparing for these Games for many years."

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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