Some experts believe equestrian disciplines could be at risk of being left out of future Olympic Games, after the International Olympic Committee disclosed the voting procedure it will follow to decide which sports will be present at the 2012 Olympics.

Three years ago, the IOC decided to cap the number of sports represented at the Games to 28 and to review the composition of the Olympic programme after every edition of the Olympics.

Members of the IOC are going to vote for the 2012 programme at a meeting, which will take place in Singapore in July. At first glance, there is no reason to believe any sport will be kicked out of the Games. At the moment, there are 28 sports in the Olympic roll and only Olympic sports can be considered for inclusion in the Games programme.

However, IOC members will vote by secret ballot on each of the Athens disciplines. If a sport does not get more than 50% of the votes cast at the meeting, it will be out of the 2012 Olympics, although it will remain an Olympic sport.

The CEO of the Equestrian Australian Federation, Franz Venhaus, has expressed concern about the whole procedure. “I wonder whether anyone has an idea of the immense risk this could pose for minor sports,” he wrote in the latest EFA newsletter.

Over at British Eventing — a sport which is perenially at risk of Olympic exclusion — the mood is more optimistic. “Obviously it is something we keeps our eyes on. [But] we have not heard anything recently that may cause worry,” says spokeswoman Winnie Murphy.

The IOC board will not give any indications to members on how to vote. Instead, it will circulate a report, which is currently being drafted by the Olympic programme committee out of contributions from the various international federations. The report itself will not suggest whether to admit or refuse a sport, but it will evaluate the 28 disciplines which were on the Athens programme as well as five applicant sports: karate, rugby, roller, golf and squash.

If any of the Athens sports is left out of the 2012 programme, it is possible that a non-Olympic discipline may be added to replace it. In this case, the IOC board would determine which applicant sports to propose for the members’ vote. Each new sport would first need to get a two-thirds majority to become part of the Olympic list, and a simple majority to be allowed into the 2012 programme.

However, the Olympic charter does not specifically require 28 sports to be featured at every edition of the Games. Their number can in fact be as low as 15, so it could well be that some minor sports are left out of the 2012 Olympics without being replaced at all.

And the crux of the matter lies precisely in whether equestrian sports are judged as minor in the context of the Olympics. The Chief Executive of the British Equestrian Federation, Andrew Finding, believes that, regardless of the present contingency, the Olympic future of dressage, eventing and show jumping can only be assured if IOC members and the wider public are convinced of the contribution these disciplines can make to the Games.

“Whatever the [IOC voting] procedure, we must continue to illustrate that equestrian sports and the recognised disciplines of show jumping, eventing and dressage, in addition to the paralympic sport of dressage, are not just worthy of Olympic or paralympic status, but add greatly to the fabric of the greatest sporting event in the world.”