What sports are being considered for addition to the Olympics?
There are pretty strict rules about what sports get added to the Olympic program. Without going into too much detail about how new sports are added to the roster of games, the basic criteria are as follows: a new Olympic sport or discipline must be “widely practiced”. This means that a men’s sport must be played in at least 75 countries across at least four continents. For women’s sports, the number’s a bit lower — at least 40 countries participating on at least three continents.
For the 2016 Olympic Games, there is some exciting news about potential new disciplines. Soon, the International Olympic Committee will consider a short list of seven sports for inclusion. The sports under consideration are golf, rugby sevens (a smaller squad), baseball, softball, squash, karate, and roller sports. The 15 member board of the IOC is planning to submit two of these sports for full ratification by the 106-member IOC at their assembly in Copenhagen this October.
Golf and rugby sevens are the most likely sports to receive full support fo rinclusion.
An IOC board member had this to say about the new additions — “It will be a long and difficult discussion. I think there will be different opinions. We hope to be able to make a unanimous decision, but it will be hard to find a common denominator.”
While it is exciting to think of Tiger Woods and other young golf phenoms going for gold against the world’s best players, don’t buy your 2016 tickets just yet — every sport on the list has a long way to go. The first step — representatives of these seven sports made lengthy presentations to the IOC board this past June in Switzerland, the home of the IOC. These representatives have kept up their lobbying right up until this week, when a panel of IOC members will make their initial vote.
Though the majority opinion holds that golf and rugby sevens are well in the lead, other IOC members speaking anonymously suggest that softball has an equally good chance of being added to the Games. Still other board members left the door wide open, suggesting that anything is possible in the world of the Olympics negotiations.
Additions for 2016 aren’t the only big debate this week — the IOC board is also making rulings on some big changes for the 2012 London games. Debate is heated over the addition of women’s boxing, a new event in swimming (the 50 meter spring), mixed doubles in tennis, BMX freestyle bike events under the umbrella of cycling, and a new format for the modern pentathlon with an eye toward shortening the event for television coverage.
One of the big issues with the addition of gold is whether golf’s biggest names and brightest stars (already multimillionaires) would step up to compete in the Olympic Games. Professional golfers have a hefty schedule of majors and other tour events, not to mention international team competitions like the Davis Cup. To this end, a couple of big name players (specifically Annika Sorenstam and Colin Montgomerie) testified before the IOC in June that the world’s top players would certainly consider the Olympics “as important as a major”. The lack of celebrities has been an issue for other failing Olympic sports in the past, most notably baseball.
There is good news for gold — the game was played at the 1900 Paris Olympics and 1904 St. Louis Games. Where there is a precedent for a sport there is hope. Golf’s supporters say that bringing the game back into the Olympics would encourage the growth of golf worldwide. Why is that? In many countries around the world, a sport can only receive government funding and major attention if it is an “Olympic sport”.
Tiger Woods, probably the biggest sports name in the world, made his own plea for the addition of gold to the 2016 games, appearing in a video presentation to the IOC making a case for the sports to be added to the Olympics. Woods was asked by a reported yesterday if he would play Olympic golf —
“If I’m not retired by then, yeah,” said Woods, who will be just 40 years old in 2016.
The big argument for golf is that it is a global sport, played all over the planet (and even once on the moon).
Golf would be played in the Olympics much like it is played outside of the Games — a 72-hole stroke-play competition for men and one for women, with 60 players in each group. Another proposed rule to increase star’s participation — the top 15 players in the world rankings would earn an automatic spot in the tournament, and all major professional tournaments and tours would halth their schedules or remake them in order to avoid a conflict.
The case for rugby may be a bit more difficult — rugby is not a global game in the sense that golf is. Rugby has a precedent in the Olympics as well, in fact that game has been played even more recently than Olympic gold — at the 1924 Olympics rugby was played in a much longer “rugby fifteens” format. Rugby sevens would make the game faster and more interesting (and easier to follow) for sports fans.
Still, the issue remains undecided for now. Though the smaller group of IOC members has basically decided on golf and rugby sevens, it is entirely possible that a majority of IOC members will resist the recommendations, as they tend to resist any and all change to the Olympic format.