On Sept. 8, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to let wrestling back into the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, awarded to Tokyo the day before.
Last February, the IOC voted out wrestling from the Olympic program, a stunning decision considering that the sport was in every edition of the modern Olympic Games but one. Undeterred, and with the support of many countries, wrestling became a candidate for inclusion. After FILA, wrestling’s international governing body, increased gender equity and reformed its rules and leadership, the sport received 49 votes from IOC delegates. Their total was greater than baseball/softball (24) and squash (22).
Meanwhile, Japanese media studies professor Yasuo Hazaki told Britain’s the Daily Telegraph that he wants hide-and-seek to be admitted into the 2020 Olympics. “Hide-and-seek is a sport that anybody can play, from children as young as four years old to someone who is in their 80s,” Hazaki said.
Hazaki’s dream likely will not come to fruition, but other sports will be added into future Olympic Games. Half-pipe and slopestyle skiing will make their Olympic debuts in Sochi while golf and rugby sevens were added for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
But certainly, there are more sports deserving of the prestige, exposure, and revenue from the Olympic Games, right?
Baseball and softball, dropped after the 2008 Games, deserve to regain their place in the Olympics due to their worldwide popularity. While softball would get the best players, baseball, on the other hand, likely would not allow Major League players to go to the Olympics. MLB would also still be committed to the World Baseball Classic.
Squash is played in both the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and has worldwide appeal. Unfortunately, it isn’t very marketable to a broad sporting audience and it is still seen as more recreational than competitive.
The IOC recognizes governing international sports federations even if they are not currently in the Olympic Games. They include some very popular sports such as cricket, karate, and bowling, and some unusual ones such as bridge, chess, and four-time Olympic sport tug-of-war. Most of these sports are part of the World Games, consisting of non-Olympic sports. The World Games were held in Cali, Colombia this past summer.
Other sports include wushu, a Chinese martial art, which can be a combat sport (sanda) or a judged sport (taolu). Jet Li is one of wushu’s most famous practitioners. Bandy is similar to hockey except it is played on an ice-covered soccer pitch and is mostly played in northern Europe. Ultimate frisbee has also gained mass appeal over the past few years. All of these sports may pique the global interest of sports fans.
UFC has stated its interest in having mixed martial arts as an Olympic sport, and the sport is affiliated with FILA, but, despite its worldwide popularity, it may be years away and may, like boxing, be restricted to amateur fighters. Beach soccer and futsal, two growing forms of the sport, have not yet been discussed as possible additions. The same is true with amputee hockey for the Paralympic Games.
It’s unlikely that any of these sports will be added to the Olympic Games any time soon; the IOC has recently placed caps on the number of sports and athletes to cut costs.
Nevertheless, new IOC president Thomas Bach has some great options at his disposal.