As the international sporting fraternity anxiously awaits the official opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – just months away now – it has become increasingly difficult to ignore that some favourites will not feature at the Summer Games this year.
It is a reality that sports fans around the world are forced to come to terms with every four years.
For some, inclusion in the Summer Games schedule has been an agonizing wait. While the administrators of other sporting codes will openly acknowledge that they have not done enough to warrant the attention of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Do The Olympic Games Matter?
Historically, there had been a tradition at the Olympics to only include sporting codes where it could be guaranteed that winning an Olympic Medal would be a priority for the most prominent athletes in that sport.
Which is why the inclusion of codes like tennis and association football have been accompanied by some level of controversy over the years. Is winning an Olympic Gold Medal more important than winning Wimbledon, for example. The same analysis would need to be conducted for the FIFA World Cup. Which is bigger to Lionel Messi?
Due to financial pressure, another consideration would need to be the number of viewers and spectators the sport is likely to attract for the duration of the Summer Games.
Essentially, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) strives to make sure that the Olympics remain relevant, especially in the 21st century. There is never total consistency when these decisions are made but you have to start somewhere, we guess.
Due to these considerations – and others – there have actually been some startling omissions and inclusions at the Olympic Games over the years.
New Sports At the Olympic Games
In the build-up to each Summer Games, the IOC assembles to deliberate on a set of codes that will either be included or excluded from the Olympic Games schedule.
Some of those codes have tried to capture the attention of the IOC for several decades now, while others have not had to do a considerable amount to win over the favour of the IOC.
The omissions and inclusions at the Olympic Games are often as strong an indicator as any of a continually evolving society. What people do and do not want to watch is something that is constantly changing, as other options emerge.
For the sake of this blog post, we will centre our focus on the codes that have been excluded from the Olympic Games during the past decade. We will also try and interrogate why those codes were snubbed ahead of the Summer Games.
It has to be said, the officials at the IOC seldom go into a tremendous amount of detail on this.
We can’t rule out that some political and economic agendas are usually advanced during these processes. The logic being that the public does not need to know all about the Olympic Games backroom dealings.
The best way to address this topic is by focusing on the here and the now. So, here is an initial list of the more prominent sporting codes that will not feature at Tokyo 2020, followed by a list of sporting codes that will only be included at Paris 2024 – and not necessarily beyond that.
Once we have managed to thrash those two sets of Summer Games out of the way, we can then examine some of the codes that constantly apply for inclusion and are continually rejected.
Some of those will be included in either the Tokyo or Paris lists anyway.
Sports That Will Not Feature At The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games
Squash is a racket sport governed by the World Squash Federation (WSF). It is estimated that about 20 million people play squash around the world. Those people play their squash on something in the region of 50 000 courts worldwide, or so it is claimed.
The squash governing body also indicated that 150 countries are affiliated to the World Squash Federation, which has five regional structures in the Americas, Africa, Australasia, Asia and Europe. In every way that matters, this is actually a genuinely global sports code.
Oddly enough squash does have the recognition of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) too. However, squash just hasn’t quite been able to crack the nod, despite numerous attempts to feature in the Summer Games.
A crippling factor is the number of people who actually play squash competitively vs those who play during lunch breaks and after work. There are also questions around how many young people play squash, as opposed to those who would rather break dance at the Summer Games.
The squash struggle at the Olympic Games does continue though, as it has also recently been established that the sport will not feature at Paris 2024 either. There are whispers in some corridors at squash clubs around the world, that there is some form of skulduggery going on. At the moment, that is an allegation that remains strenuous to prove.
We will conclude by saying it is strange that a federation more than 50 years old can’t crack an invitation to the biggest sporting event in the world.
2- Roller Sports
This is a peculiar business and some clarity is probably needed. In total, roller sports would include Inline Skating, Roller Skating, Freestyle Scootering and Skateboarding. The latter is actually the source of confusion in this regard.
We say that because Skateboarding in isolation will actually be at Tokyo 2020. To be fair, Skateboarding only cracked the nod ahead of Tokyo 2020 too. It is a recent development and there will be some trial and error.
It also has to be said that the success of skateboarding as an event at the Summer Games will likely have a meaningful impact on whether the other Roller Sports are eventually accepted by the IOC.
Skateboarding will also feature four events, which is more than some of the older codes can say ahead of the Summer Games. Volleyball, for example, only has two tournaments at this year’s Summer Games. But we digress.
The other three Roller Sports have been fighting for inclusion at the Olympics for many years now, with little to no success.
Inline Skating would include:
- Vert Skating
- Aggressive inline skating
- Inline freestyle skating
- Inline figure skating
- Inline hockey
- Inline speed skating
- Roller soccer
- Inline alpine skating
Roller Skating would include sports codes like:
- Artistic roller skating
- Roller speed skating
- Jam skating
- Roller derby
- Roller hockey
- Rink Hockey
- Road skating
- Roller skiing
- Dry ski slope
- Grass skiing
- Indoor ski slope
- Roller cross-country skiing
- Roller alpine skiing
Then finally, Freestyle Scootering is pretty self-explanatory. We will leave it to your imagination.
Anybody who has caught a glimpse of the Commonwealth Games will realise just popular this code is within the countries that make up the former British Empire.
There is not a considerable amount positive to be said about the former British Empire but something impossible to ignore is the enormous footprint the Empire left behind in those countries – and most of that has been through sport.
A sport like bowling is a glaring example of this. Among the more popular formats for this code are ten-pin bowling and the more traditional lawn bowls. Lawn bowls is regarded as the purest format of the sport.
Ten-pin bowling is the format that probably has greater commercial prospects as an international code. Its success in countries like the United States is glaring evidence of that.
Other options for inclusion at the Summer Games are Duckpin bowling, Candlepin bowling, Nine-pin bowling, and Five-pin bowling. The latter options are admittedly not as compelling or popular as the first two that we mentioned in this segment of the blog.
It is estimated that more than 100 million people take part in some form of bowling in about 90 countries around the world.
Anybody who has watched wakeboarding will tell you, off the bat, that this is one of the most exciting water sports out there. It is absolutely enthralling. Why this has not captured the imagination of the IOC yet is actually completely beyond us.
Not only is it visually appealing but it requires a considerable level of skill to master it.
Wakeboarding does have the attention of organisers at the X-Games though, which is probably a massive step in the right direction.
For those who have never experienced wakeboarding – firstly you are missing out – secondly it is essentially a skateboard on water, while being pulled by a speedboat. Like skateboarding, wakeboarding involves a considerable amount of heart-stopping trickery.
A variation of that will be something called wakesurfing, which takes place in the ocean and not on flat water and you are normally pulled around with a massive kite and not by a boat or system of sophisticated cables. Both codes produce extraordinary results though.
The sport also has some meaningful history about it, with there being compelling evidence that extreme sport enthusiasts were taking part in the activity as far back as the mid-20th century.
Wushu is something that very few people outside of Asia will be familiar with.Unlike the other codes we have mentioned in this blog, it did make an appearance at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The sport is also recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
However, Wushu only featured as a demonstration sport at Beijing 2008 and will not feature at Tokyo 2020.
Okay, we have said a considerable amount about Wushu already but what is it exactly?
Well, given the nature of its association with Beijing 2008, we should probably have guessed that the sport is distinctly Chinese – which it is. Wushu is a Chinese martial art. Chinese kungfu to be a bit more precise.
The game is governed by the International Wushu Federation (IWUF), which has 152 members and five continental federations worldwide. While the sport could make a meaningful return at some later stage, it is perhaps somewhat of a surprise that the sport did not make the cut at Tokyo 2020.
This is a serious code and probably ought to be treated with a tad more respect.
The exclusion of netball from the Olympic Games remains somewhat puzzling to all and sundry, for two reasons really.
Firstly because of the extensive reach that netball enjoys within the British Commonwealth and secondly because it is a sport played by both men and women.
In recent years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been all about cutting off excess fat and operating the games efficiently. So, it would stand to reason that more team sport competitions that include both genders should be more appealing to organisers.
Some call it a pure form of basketball, while in fact it is a modified version of basketball. Both sporting codes developed at about the same time – about a year apart actually. One of those versions was to clearly become a version for women but it had a lot more merit than that. Chief among those merits is the fact that the ball is not allowed to touch the ground in netball.
The International Netball Federation (INF) is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Established in 1960, the INF has 49 full-time members and 25 associates with limited powers.
It is not the biggest code or federation in the world but still warrants more attention than it currently gets. The netball struggle is real.
Sports That Will Not Feature At Paris 2024 Olympic Games
While the usual suspects featured in the lobbying for inclusion at Paris 2024. Most of the headlines at the IOC centered around something that has probably become the biggest cultural phenomenon in the world right now – gaming.
As a lobbying platform, gaming campaigned for inclusion at the Summer Games as eSports. As we said, eSport is a cultural phenomenon which now has a sizable professional element to it.
So, there are three very common video game structures.
The first is something we call a multiplayer online battle arena or MOBA.
The second is something we call first-person shooter or FPS.
Finally we have a genre called fighting, card games, battle royales, and real-time strategy or RTS.
All three of those basic genres take place in highly competitive environments.
According to the IOC, there are two basic problems which are preventing eSports from entering the Olympics. The first is the exposure to extreme violence when playing or even viewing these games. The IOC needs evidence that this violence in gaming can be restricted to an acceptable level.
The second problem is probably bigger than that though, as it will have a direct impact on the violence issue. Esports does not have a global sanctioning body, even though it has several leagues. That is an issue.
Among the leagues are the League of Legends World Championship, Dota 2’s International, the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) and Intel Extreme Masters. Those are the most popular league in eSports.
However, without any genuine legitimacy, all of this ultimately means nothing. They need to sort this out if they harbour aspirations of winning over IOC organisers ahead of Los Angeles 2028.
Gamers might be helped by the fact that there is a big digital industry in California. Potentially huge viewing numbers might just help swing the IOC when it matters most.
Sports That Hope To Crack The Nod At Los Angeles 2028
The announcement of the host for the 2028 Summer Games came four years ahead of the time, which actually enhanced LA’s chances of securing the Olympics. It was a significant announcement because the city will be hosting the Olympics for the third time, which is a unique achievement. Only London and Paris have managed that.
It is also significant because the Olympics will return to the United States for the first time since 1996, the Atlanta Summer Games. Being hosted by the United States also represents a glorious opportunity to reshape the Olympic brand in what is a fast changing country and a fast changing city.
At this juncture it does not look like baseball or softball will be included in the Olympic programmes at Paris 2024, even though it did make the cut for Tokyo 2020. We have a certain degree of confidence that Baseball and Softball will make a glamorous return at Los Angeles 2028. For the moment, we need to be clear that this is not the case yet.
At the end of Tokyo 2020, baseball and softball will no longer be Olympic sports as such. In the context of this blog, that is all that matters. They will be temporarily off the list as it were.
Baseball is a bat and ball game, played predominantly in the Americas and parts of East Asia.
The sport is governed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). It is actually not a very old organisation, although the sport has been around for more than a century. The sport is represented by 141 national federations (members).
In addition to that, they have seven professional baseball associate members. Their reach extends across five continental regions or territories. The WBSC is the product of a merger between baseball and softball and that was done with a permanent return to the Olympic Games in mind. It certainly helped with the bid for inclusion at Tokyo 2020.
9- T20 Cricket
Anybody who is completely honest with himself will acknowledge that cricket has a massive hill to climb if it hopes to win over the hearts and minds of the IOC. Part of the problem is that cricket authorities themselves are a little divided on cricket featuring at the Olympic Games.
There has actually been a previous bid from T20 cricket, ahead of London 2012 but that failed.
Let us face it, if cricket failed to make the cut at the home of cricket, then the chances ahead of Los Angeles 2028 are less than slim.
The sport does still warrant some scrutiny though. For one, it is a format of cricket that is recognised by the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Apart from international competitions, there are several top flight domestic leagues that have become quite lucrative over the past decade. They include but are not limited to the Indian Premier League, Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League, Pakistan Super League and Caribbean Premier League.
It is also considerably easier to sell T20 cricket than any other version of the game and the reach of the sport is more global than some of the other regular featured sports at the Summer Games.
The prospects of T20 cricket really do rest in the hands of those who govern the sport itself – the ICC.
For decades a debate has raged about the sporting codes that should or should not feature at the Olympic Games. Central to that debate has been the class war between professionalism and amateurism.
When London hosted the 2012 Olympics it was said that sport had finally come home. To a very large degree, that was and still is true today. It is the sporting ethos of the English that governed the way that sport should be played when it became an official part of the curriculum – first in English schools and then around the rest of the world.
The IOC adopted that same ethos when it was first established. For many years, both the IOC and the English frowned upon the very notion of a professional sportsman. Until just recently that was still the case with the IOC.
However, there needed to be an evolution in the thinking at some point, as the future of the Summer Games came under increasing scrutiny. The survival of the Olympics depends on the attitude they adopt towards new sporting codes.
That something like break dancing will feature at Paris 2024 is telling, even though we are not sure that will last beyond those Summer Games. It is, at the very least, a form of recognition that the IOC needs to evolve if it wants to remain relevant and the biggest sporting showpiece on the planet.