Now that the 2012 Summer Olympics are officially underway, sports fans the world over eagerly await the actual competition to get going in earnest. The current format for the Olympics consist of 28 sports and many fans of the Olympics—myself included—don't think that is enough.
Sports fans being greedy? Who could have imagined such a thing?
But in all seriousness, there is room for expansion at the Olympics. When researching material for this article, I discovered that for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) found themselves two sports short with just 26 actually on the docket.
So, the IOC opened up bidding to fill those two spots. Ultimately, rugby and golf won the right to be included in the 2016 Summer Olympics (ESPN) , beating out sports such as baseball, squash, wake boarding and roller sports (Wikipedia).
Some of those sports seem like head-scratchers. Wake boarding? Roller sports? Don't get me wrong. I am not being critical of those sports at all. And they would both produce some great Olympic moments if they were added.
But, I came up with five sports that I feel deserve consideration for inclusion at the 2016 Olympics—or beyond. Some of them, like golf and rugby, were once a part of the Games and deserve to be brought back. Others have not yet had the opportunity to be included.
Here then are five sports that need to get added to the Olympics.
In the summer of 2005, the IOC officially removed baseball and softball from the Summer Olympics effective for the 2012 Olympics. Why this was done is not entirely clear, however. Depending on what you read, or believe, there are multiple factors involved here.
You can read up on the subject and discover many possibilities. The most widely accepted reasons are that baseball is not really a world wide sport, there are concerns over drug testing and there were concerns over whether the MLB would commit to sending its best players over for the Olympics right at a time when pennant races were heating up back in the USA (USA Today).
While those may be valid concerns, they are also somewhat easily dismissed.
As for baseball not being a world wide sport, 16 different nations competed in the baseball competition between 1992 and 2008. Every continent on the planet, with the exceptions of South America and Antarctica, had a team in the competition.
That sure sounds like diversity to me.
The drug testing issue is more difficult to get around. But one must also remember that the IOC's decision in 2005 came right about at the height of the baseball steroid scandals. Matters only got worse between 2005 and the 2008 Olympics which probably validated the IOC's decision.
But baseball has taken many steps since 2008 to try and remedy this situation with varying degrees of success. If nothing else, everyone associated with baseball is more aware of the problem then they were in 2005.
The issue regarding MLB agreeing to send its best players over for the Olympics is a tougher nut to crack, but not insurmountable. I have never understood why MLB could not just take a couple of weeks off, similar to what the NHL does for the Winter Olympics.
I have a suspicion that to get baseball back into the Summer Olympics, MLB would at least be willing to explore a compromise.
But all that aside, baseball has produced some great moments at the Summer Olympics. True, the competition has been dominated by the USA, Cuba and Japan. Still an event like the USA defeating the dominant Cubans at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, or the Australians unlikely run to the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, or South Korea coming from nowhere to take the gold medal in Beijing in 2008 is something that any baseball fan will always remember.
The point is that baseball fought for decades to get rid of its exhibition status only to have the sport removed completely from consideration for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the competition.
The great American pastime is a world wide pastime and it deserves to be brought back to the Olympics more than just about any of the other sports out there.
Is MMA ready to be an Olympic sport?
As the popularity of boxing has declined over the past several years, the popularity of MMA, or mixed martial arts, has exploded. No longer viewed as a legalized version of Fight Club, MMA, and in particular the UFC, has become widely accepted by the mainstream media and by fans of combat world wide.
Boxing may still command higher gate and pay-per-view numbers than MMA, but MMA has that certain something that has given it a leg up on boxing the past few years—buzz.
MMA fights have a buzz about them that most boxing matches just don't seem to have any longer. When people get excited for a big fight nowadays, they are usually talking about a UFC bout. The recent rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen was a prime example of this.
With MMA rising in the ranks of popularity, it seems that adding MMA to the Olympics would be logical.
MMA certainly has an international presence as fighters from all over the world compete in MMA events.
A big step towards Olympic approval was made when the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation was formed. The goal of the IMMAF is to try and standardize the sport so that, ultimately, it can get included in the Olympics.
This is vital since MMA has no standardized method for drug testing. Obviously, drug testing has been an issue for MMA recently as was demonstrated by the highly publicized elevated testosterone test from Alistair Overeem (Yahoo! Sports).
A standardized testing method would add immediate credibility to any sort of competition being considered for future Olympic Games, including MMA.
Of course for MMA to get included, something would have to go. Perhaps just as problematic is the fact that karate is also trying to get in. Currently, the Olympics include judo and taekwondo, both very distinct disciplines with aspects to each that make it amenable to Olympic competition.
But are three separate martial arts disciplines the answer? Or, does it make more sense to have MMA in the Olympics, thereby combining multiple disciplines, and perhaps drop judo, or taekwondo—or even both—and opening up spots for other sports to be included, such as baseball and MMA?
It is a very difficult choice as many martial arts are worthy of Olympic recognition on their own merits, as opposed to the martial arts blender that is MMA.
MMA is absolutely moving in the right direction to get added to the Olympics and I, for one, hope to see MMA added very soon.
Auto Racing is another very popular sport that should be considered for the Olympics
The current slate of Olympic events is littered with racing contests.
You have cycling, rowing, sailing, track and swimming with several different variations within each sport.
Conspicuous by its absence is one of the most popular forms of racing in the word—auto racing.
Whether you are talking about NASCAR, IndyCar or the F1 circuit, auto racing has legions of fans in all corners of the globe who would absolutely be thrilled if auto racing was made an Olympic event.
There would be precedent for making auto racing an Olympic event as motor racing was an unofficial sport at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris (Wikipedia). True, it was only there as part of the 1900 World Fair.
But, if you look at the other sports in play at the 1900 Games, you will note that golf and rugby were included—and both of those sports are being brought back for the 2016 Olympics.
Naturally, the times have changed a bit since 1900 and herein lies the rub with adding auto racing. Exactly what sorts of cars will be used? Will the NASCAR style stock car be used or will F1 style vehicles be the car of choice?
A decision one way or the other could have the effect of eliminating a great number of drivers who are only used to driving a specific type of car.
Then again, many of the worlds' best drivers will tell you they can win on anything with four wheels. World class competitors want to compete, no matter the circumstances or the odds.
With an Olympic gold medal on the line, we might see many more drivers compete—regardless of the choice of vehicle—than might have otherwise been expected.
Some have suggested that the best racers in the world would be placed in production-based sports cars with each country responsible for developing its' own vehicles and selecting its' best driver (Automedia.com).
Now that would make things very interesting.
Certainly, there is enough of an international factor involved here as auto racing is as international an event as you will likely find.
Combine the excitement of auto racing with the thrill of the Olympics and what you get is a great competition that needs to be added to the Olympics.
The fast paced action of lacrosse would be tailor made for the Olympics.
It seems like as far as the IOC is concerned, what's old is new. This is evidenced by the IOC's decision to bring back golf and rugby and reinstate both sports as Olympic events.
Another sport that should be brought back to the Olympics is lacrosse.
Lacrosse was actually an official Olympic sport in 1904 and 1908. It was hardly an international sort of competition though as only the USA, Canada and Great Britain competed. Not surprisingly, lacrosse was removed as an official Olympic sport after 1908.
Lacrosse did, however, remain as a demonstration event through the 1948 Summer Olympics. Unfortunately, it still lacked enough of an international presence to justify keeping the sport in the Olympics at any level.
That may have been true at the time but things have changed now.
In 1974, the International Lacrosse Federation was formed with the goal being to try and establish lacrosse as an international sport. By 2008, the ILF had been so successful at this goal that both the mens' and womens' international federations were merged and the merged union became known as the Federation of International Lacrosse, or FIL (Wikipedia).
Just how far has international lacrosse come? The 2010 World Lacrosse Championship, held in Manchester, England, had a record 29 teams entered from all corners of the globe. Ultimately the USA defeated Canada to take the gold medal while Australia took the bronze.
England, the third lacrosse power from the early days, finished fifth.
There is really no viable reason I can think of as to why lacrosse should not be brought back into the mix at the Summer Olympics in the near future. It is a sport that is surging in popularity and now has a World Cup quality event to declare a world champion every four years.
The 2014 World Lacrosse Championship will host 40 teams, further demonstrating the increasing popularity and viability of lacrosse.
A fast paced, team based sport, being played by increasingly more people in a greater diversity of countries, is just the sort of competition the 2016 Olympics—or perhaps the 2020 Games—need.
Cricket is another sport that is very popular in many regions of the world
As someone who lives in the USA, I admit I know very little about cricket.
It certainly looks a bit like baseball. But I have watched enough to know the differences far outweigh the similarities.
Regardless, cricket is an extremely popular sport in many areas of the globe. This is particularly true in England, India, Pakistan, South Africa and Australia, just to name a few.
Similar to lacrosse, cricket used to be an Olympic sport. It made an appearance at the Olympics back in 1900 and, to date, that is its only appearance.
Though cricket is not going through the growth spurt that lacrosse is, it too enjoys its own World Cup every four years. For the 2011 World Cup, 14 nations competed for the crown of best in the world.
No, it's obviously not quite the 40 that will be expected to compete at the next lacrosse World Championships.
Still there is enough international interest and enthusiasm in cricket that an Olympic cricket tournament would likely be very popular and successful.
The biggest issues that pose the greatest risk of keeping cricket on the Olympic sidelines is the format of the tournament and whether the best players in the world, many of whom would be in the middle of their own league seasons, would play.
Maybe I am just naively optimistic, but I believe if cricket were added to the Olympics, there would be many people making sacrifices to make sure the best cricket tournament possible could be held.
Probably a bigger problem is the type of format for the tournament and the style of game that would be played.
Test cricket, for instance, can involve games that last up to five days. Obviously, that won't work in an Olympic format.
More than likely, any cricket Olympic tournament would use the ODI, or one day international, form of cricket utilized at the World Cup. An Olympic cricket tournament is very possible using this form of the game.
But a new form of the game, known as Twenty20 has now emerged. According to the Wikipedia description of this version, a game can be completed in about three and one-half hours, roughly the length of time of the average American football game...if the commercials are included.
If the Twenty20 version of cricket was used, and the games shortened, it might enable the tournament field to be expanded, creating greater exposure without causing the tournament to run too long.
While most Americans would probably not be that interested in the event (at least not initially), I suspect many would be curious.
For the many nations that excel at cricket though, an Olympic cricket tournament would be a dream come true.