For any up and coming or niche sport the holy grail is gaining acceptance into the Olympic Games, with an appearance there taking the sport from a select few loyal followers to a more mainstream audience.
This can have huge positive ramifications, including national sporting organizations pouring money into a previously underfunded sport, or the sport’s underappreciated stars finally getting their moment in the spotlight.
In this article we take a look at those sports that are on the brink of being accepted to the Olympic big time, as well as some that have already been trialed by the games but could be about to return bigger and better than ever.
Of course, we must begin with our beloved game of Lacrosse, which over the years has battled in vain to be accepted as an Olympic sport. It did actually become a medal sport in 1908, but it took until 2018 for the IOC to consider bringing it back into the fold.
The aim has long been to have Lacrosse be a part of the 2028 in LA, where all of the sport’s founding fathers could be directly involved. At least if the games are in the US then the issue of players wishing to travel to the games on Haudenosaunee passports would not be an issue, as it has been for Iroquois teams in the past.
Surely it would be a missed opportunity for the whole Lacrosse world, of which the Iroquois are key figureheads, if the sport and all its participants were not invited to LA 2028. The IOC should think long and hard about a decision that could have ramifications well beyond Lacrosse fields for decades to come.
While Lacrosse is an ancient sport with a rich history that dates backs centuries, if not millennia, American Football is an altogether modern affair, with the NFL and NCAA boosting the sport to become one with a worldwide following, and sportsbooks falling over themselves to create inventive odds lines for big upcoming games.
Despite this level of popularity and growing recognition around the world, American Football has not featured at an Olympic Games since all the way back in 1932.
There had been hopes that, because the 1932 games were held in Los Angeles, it could be the perfect moment for the sport to make an Olympic return to the same city in 2028. Certainly, the demand would be there for the Games to feature American Football in 2028, as would no doubt be evident in the chat rooms, comment sections, and FanDuel sportsbook reviews published online in the lead-up to LA 2028, where NFL and NCAA fans would clamor for such additional gridiron action in their sports betting calendars.
Unfortunately, those dreams appear to have been dashed, as the IOC have made it quite clear that gridiron will not be taking an Olympic bow anytime soon.
One of their main gripes may be that it would be difficult to imagine an Olympic American Football event that the US would not completely dominate because, while the sport is played in other countries around the world, the level at which it is played pales in comparison to those seen in the NFL and NCAA league systems.
Moreover, it is unclear if NFL suits are that bothered by Olympic inclusion, because the IOC meddling in their affairs might not be high on their busy agendas.
While Lacrosse and American Football will have to wait a little longer to be a part of the Olympic fervor, one sport that has recently managed to make the leap is climbing, or sports climbing to be precise. Tokyo 2020, or should we say 2021, will see the introduction of three climbing disciplines called Speed, Bouldering, and Lead.
The beauty of this sport being introduced into the Olympics is that its apparatus can be setup at virtually any Olympic venue. Using artificial climbing walls that have been around for decades, it’s not too difficult to recreate the conditions that would be found on some of the world’s most challenging cliffs and rock faces.
Ultimately, it is this longevity and worldwide appeal which the IOC are looking for when they consider adding new sports to their Olympic roster. Lacrosse would do well to take notes and see what can be learned from the likes of sports climbing, so that one day Lacrosse sticks can be wielded in earnest at an Olympic medal event.
Baseball and Softball
While US-based sports like Lacrosse and American Football have found it difficult to gain acceptance in Olympic circles, baseball and softball have had no such issue, and will feature at Tokyo 2020.
The thing that sets these sports apart from their American counterparts is that they boast standalone leagues around the world, most of which are completely independent from the most well-known MLB.
Allied to this is the fact that baseball is almost as popular in Japan as it is in the US, with the Nippon Professional Baseball League (formerly known as the J League) drawing huge interest right across Asia. No doubt this played a large part in the IOC’s decision to include baseball and softball in its 2020 Tokyo edition of the Games.
Surfing and Other Extreme Sports
There is a worry at the IOC that the Olympics as a brand may be losing the traction it has historically enjoyed with sports fans. This is due to many sports leagues and franchises pushing hard to dominate not only their traditional regular season schedules, but also to muscle in on summer schedules, which are usually reserved every four years for the Olympics.
To keep their brand fresh and up to date the IOC have included one of the coolest sports of them all for 2020, as surfing takes a bow in Tokyo.
Expect more such extreme sports to be included in the Olympic schedule as the IOC attempts to appeal to a new generation of sports fan.