Social Science blog

19 May 2010

What's next for Olympic sports?

There was a wonderful picture in the Times on Monday of Paul Collingwood celebrating England’s win over Australia for the World Twenty20 cricket trophy, and naturally I immediately thought what a pity it was that cricket hadn’t made it into the Olympic Games pantheon. A friend of mine soon put me right on that misapprehension though, for cricket was one of the sports played at the Olympic Games of 1900. On that occasion, Great Britain beat France by 158 runs at the Municipal Velodrome in Vincennes. An interesting account of the match by Ian Buchanan appears in the Journal of Olympic History, which is available on the LA84 website. This website, incidentally, is a wonderful resource for Olympics-related content in full text, including all the official reports of the Games going right back to the beginnings of the modern Olympics. .


There is now talk of cricket in its Twenty20 form being included in the Olympics, as the IOC has formally recognised the International Cricket Council. It won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest, but that date would be really rather appropriate wouldn’t it?


The IOC’s website explains how the choice of new sports for the Olympics is organised. They say that:


‘To make it onto the Olympic programme, a sport first has to be recognised: it must be administered by an International Federation which ensures that the sport's activities follow the Olympic Charter. If it is widely practised around the world and meets a number of criteria established by the IOC session, a recognised sport may be added to the Olympic programme on the recommendation of the IOC's Olympic Programme Commission’


There is every incentive, as far as individual sports are concerned, to be recognised as ‘Olympic’. By taking part in the Games, they showcase their sport in an arena which provides them with undreamt of publicity and world-wide exposure. Not surprisingly, the IOC has a continuing number of difficult choices to make about which sports to include, and it is invariably criticised by the sports that don’t make it. Recently, rugby sevens and golf were approved for the 2020 and 2016 Games, with squash and baseball being passed over. In the wings, body building, cheerleading and bridge are putting forward their cases to be included, so will the Olympic Games ever be ‘full up’ and how will the IOC deal with the controversies that some of its decisions create? Not only does it have to justify the inclusion of one sport over another, it also debates ideas about which sports are appropriate for which sexes. I’ve often wondered why men can’t participate in synchronised swimming; and why women haven’t been allowed to ski jump, given that they are now entitled to box.



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