Dropping the individual pursuit has proved unpopular with cycling fans [EPA] 
The International Olympic Committee approved major changes to track cycling and the addition of mixed doubles in tennis for the 2012 London Games.

The IOC executive board agreed to a program of five men's and five women's track cycling events as part of a gender-parity plan proposed by cycling world governing body UCI.

As a result, the Olympics will lose track cycling's iconic event - the 4,000-metre individual pursuit for men and women.

Dozens of current and former cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, have spoken out against dropping the individual pursuit.

Among those affected are reigning 19-year-old world champion Tyler Phinney of the United States and two-time Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins of Britain.

Changes

Also eliminated in the changes are the men's and women's points races, and men's madison.

The new Olympic program includes men's and women's competition in individual sprint, team sprint, keirin, team pursuit and the five-race omnium event.

The omnium combines performances in a 3-kilometre individual pursuit, 200-metre sprint, 1-kilometre time trial, 15-kilometre points race and 5-kilometre scratch race.

Cycling had seven track events for men and three for women at the 2008 Beijing Games. The changes were designed to make sure males and females compete in an equal number of events in London.

"The changes reflect the IOC's desire to continually refresh the program, as well as its commitment to increase women's participation,'' the IOC said in a statement.

Dissatisfied

But reigning Olympic women's individual pursuit gold medallist Rebecca Romero was not satisfied.

"I'm all in favour of moving to achieve parity between men and women but there must be a better solution,'' she said before the decision was announced.

"This is a major culling. There's got to be something better.''

The change will bring the number of women track cyclists in London to 84, up from 35 in Beijing in 2008. Women will make up 45 percent of the total number of Olympic track cyclists, compared to 19 percent in Beijing.

Mixed doubles will now feature in the 2012 Olympics in London [EPA]
On the final day of a two-day meeting, the IOC board also ratified a proposal by the International Tennis Federation for inclusion of mixed doubles in London, where the tournament will be played on grass at Wimbledon.

In August, the IOC said it wanted guarantees that top players in singles would be able to participate in mixed doubles. Outside of the Olympics, the top singles players rarely play doubles or mixed doubles.

The IOC said on Thursday that mixed doubles "will bring an added value to the Olympic program by providing another opportunity for men and women to compete together on the same field of play.''

In August, swimming governing body Fina proposed eight more medal races for the Olympics but was told by the IOC it would have to eliminate other events to accommodate new ones. Fina then decided not to propose any changes for 2012.

Source: AP