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NBC's Dolph wars.

(actor Dolph Lundgren campaigns to make sure the network includes the pentathlon event in its coverage of the 1996 Olympics)

by Anya Sacharow, MEDIAWEEK, June 10 1996

If your pentathlon-awareness level is low, Dolph Lundgren is going to boost it. The Swedish-born movie star is taking a sabbatical from Hollywood this summer to become team leader of the 1996 U.S. Olympic pentathlon team. Even though as team leader he does not compete, the action-film star has plenty to keep him sweating. The modern pentathlon, invented by Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1896 as training for military officers, includes five events: horseback riding, fencing, shooting, swimming and running. Officer training these days looks more like the computer game Doom, so the modern pentathalon has become an endangered species.

The International Olympics Committee is considering excluding the event from the 2000 games because its popularity level is low. Lundgren, who played a pentathlete in the 1992 film Pentathlon, is lobbying hard to keep that from happening.

"The pentathlon is a unique sport in that it was created for the Olympics," he says. "It wants to be part of the Olympics. That's the only way it has a life." The modern pentathlon has already been shortened from five days to one.

Lundgren, who rode into New York City last week on horseback to make a promotional appearance for the imperiled event at the Official All-Star Cafe, says, "We're lobbying NBC to broadcast the [full] pentathlon."

While Lundgren was concerned about NBC's commitment to broadcasting the sport, an NBC representative denied the network was giving the event short shrift. "Our schedule is tentative, but we do have some coverage planned," says an NBC representative. "Depending on how stories break, we may show more of it." But, the rep admits, Peter Diamond, the NBC programming director for the Olympics, leans toward the traditional sports.

"Media and TV dictate much of what's going on," Lundgren laments. "Not just in sports, but in the world as a whole." Amen, Dolph.