Assessing the Seven Potential New Olympic Sports in 2016
With seven sports vying for only two spots at the 2016 Olympics, it is inevitable that many people will be left disappointed. On Thursday, the field will be trimmed to no more than four sports, with the final decision being made in October.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the sports bidding for Olympic status.
Baseball gained full medal status at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, despite having been a demonstration sport 88 years earlier when the Games visited St. Louis. The sport appeared at last year’s Games in Beijing, yet it was on borrowed time thanks to an International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote in 2005 to drop baseball from the 2012 program.
Undeterred by that setback, the International Baseball Federation is seeking reinstatement for the 2016 Games. The proposal alludes to both men’s and women’s tournaments with eight to 12 teams in each.
The problems of the past, however, seem unlikely to be erased over the next few months. Baseball at the Olympics suffered greatly, largely because of the fact that many of the sport’s best players never participated.
The public’s perception of Major League Baseball’s doping problems also contributed to a lack of support.
In 1900 and 1904, golf appeared at the Olympics, despite the fact that only the U.S.A. and Canada actually competed. Over a century later, in 2005, the International Golf Federation (IGF) launched a bid to be included in the 2012 program, but alas golf failed to achieve Olympic status.
Now, with the backing of Tiger Woods (well, sort of), golf is being tipped for inclusion in the 2016 program. Woods said, “It would be great to have an Olympic gold medal.”
What an endorsement; arguably the greatest golfer of all-time would like an Olympic medal, but what he said next pretty much labels the IGF’s bid as flawed.
Woods went onto say, “But if you asked any, ‘Would you rather have an Olympic gold medal or green jacket or Claret Jug?’ More players would say the majors.”
That just about sums it up. An Olympic gold medal should be the pinnacle of any sport, therefore golf shouldn’t even be in the running; but then again, tennis remains as an Olympic sport.
The IGF has proposed that the competition will be a 72-hole stroke play tournament for men and women, with 60 competitors in each field. The World’s top 15 will automatically gain entry.
The martial art has never been given Olympic status, though it came awfully close in 2005. Karate reached the final two candidates, yet it failed to receive two-thirds of IOC members’ votes.
The World Karate Federation (WKF), who has prepared the bid, seems to be optimistic given their strong performance four years ago. Further good news for them is that the recommended sports will only need a majority this time around, not two-thirds of the vote.
Had that been the case in 2005, karate would be an Olympic sport in London.
The WKF are proposing five medal classes each for men and women. A total of 120 athletes would compete for the medals over two days.
A possible problem for the karate bid could come as a result of sports already on the Olympic program.
With judo and taekwondo already recognised as Olympic sports, many people have been asking “Aren’t there enough martial arts already in the Olympics?”
The roller sports bid is being presented by the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS). They are proposing 10 medal races over three days for men and women. The races will vary in distance with sprint races and longer marathon races.
Roller sports have gained some popularity in other multi-sport events around the world. For instance, inline races feature at the Asian Games, as well as the Pan-American Games.
However, it appears that the FIRS have missed a trick. Firstly, they have barely promoted their bid, while the other sports have been working tirelessly. Secondly, and perhaps crucially, they only plan on introducing inline street races and not skateboarding or roller hockey.
Roller hockey was a demonstration sport in 1992 and skateboarding is a popular activity amongst young people. Inline skating is too, but with either or both of these sports added to the bid, it would’ve been much stronger than it is right now.
Rugby union has been previously been contested at four Olympics on-and-off between 1900 and 1924. On all four occasions it was the 15-a-side format of the game, but if rugby union is approved, it will the seven-a-side format.
Rugby sevens also tried to gain Olympic status in 2005, but fell at the first hurdle. Nevertheless, in the last four years the sport has risen significantly in popularity and the Sevens World Cup is now big business.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) would like to introduce men’s and women’s tournaments of 12 teams. The IRB would are also savvy enough to know that, as I said before, an Olympic medal should be the premiere accolade in any Olympic sport.
As a result, the IRB have said that they will scrap the Sevens World Cup to make sure that the Olympics will be the sport’s top tournament.
Softball attained medal status for women at the 1996 Atlanta Games and remained in the Games until last year. The sport suffered the same fate as baseball, when it was ousted at an IOC meeting in 2005.
The main reason for its dismissal was because it had been dominated by the United States, who had won all three Olympic tournaments at the time of the IOC meeting.
Of course, Japan beat the U.S.A. in last year’s final, but that isn’t really enough to suggest that the U.S.A. won’t continue to dominate in the future.
Softball also failed to gain public interest because the perceived connection with baseball. For that reason the International Softball Federation (ISF) refused to an offer by baseball’s authorities to make a joint bid.
The ISF is proposing a women’s tournament with the option of a male competition, which the IOC would no doubt like to see, since they are currently seeking gender equality.
Much to the dismay of many people, squash has never been an Olympic sport. In 2005 it failed to get the two-thirds support of IOC members.
In recent times squash has become a very entertaining spectator sport. With glass courts and high-speed cameras, the armchair viewer can witness all of the action with ease.
Unlike some of the other sports bidding, squash is a truly global game. The World Squash Federation (WSF) claims that 20 million people from 175 countries play the sport.
The game’s top players come from various parts of the world, including, France, Malaysia, Egypt, and Pakistan.
The WSF calls for men’s and women’s tournaments. The event will take place in mobile glass courts that can be put up anywhere and used by the hosts when they see fit.
It is unclear which sports will be chosen, but I know which sports I think should be at the 2016 Olympics.
Essentially, I think it will be a major blunder if the IOC does not bestow Olympic status on squash. Squash has been in the sporting wilderness for far too long now.
The next choice is a lot trickier.
I fear that golf will get the nod, but I would opt for rugby sevens: It’s a fast and exciting sport that will require no extra stadia to be built because the tournament will take place in the Olympic Stadium.
Rugby will also give nations like Samoa and Fiji a genuine chance at winning medals. The downside, however, is that the women’s game lacks quality, and that rugby is only really popular in the British Commonwealth.
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