When it comes to qualifying for the Olympics, most people think about the athletes who compete their hearts out for a chance to play on the world’s biggest athletic stage.
But it’s not just athletes who have to qualify for the Olympics.
Before each Olympic year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gets together and reviews the sports that will be included in that year’s games. The host country ultimately gets the final say over which sports get chosen. They make their decisions based on a number of factors including the popularity of the sport, the financial success of the sport, gender equality, and youth appeal.
This year, surfing, skateboarding, climbing, and karate are all making their Olympic debuts in Tokyo, and baseball and softball are making comebacks after being discontinued in 2008.
Unfortunately, policy only allows for 5 sports to be added in a given year, so not every sport makes the cut. But that doesn’t mean those sports shouldn’t make it next time.
Here are 5 sports we’d like to see added to the Olympics in the years to come:
#1 - Ultimate
Ultimate Frisbee is already recognized as an official sport by the International Olympic Committee—it just hasn’t made the cut to be included in the games yet. Played in over 100 countries worldwide, ultimate requires all the components of any great sport: a combination of athleticism, skill, and strategy.
But what makes ultimate such a great fit for the Olympics is that it’s often regarded as the pinnacle display of sportsmanship. That’s because the sport is entirely self-officiated, meaning it has no official referees. As a result, the game demands a high degree of honesty and respect between the players to work properly. These are the perfect values for an Olympic sport to uphold and promote.
In addition, ultimate is widely accessible since it is cheap to pick up and has both male and female leagues. Ultimate will look to make a bid for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics which will be held in Paris and the U.S., two countries with a growing ultimate presence.
#2 - Darts
If you have never seen darts played professionally, then stop reading and look it up on YouTube. It’s electrifying—even more entertaining than watching your drunk friend try to hit a bullseye in the back of a pub.
Despite having gained a name for itself as a bar game, darts is played professionally in over 70 countries and is recognized by the Global Association of International Sports Federations. Although it is not currently recognized by the IOC, which is required for any sport that wants to make it into the Olympics, that is likely to change over the next decade as the World Darts Federation continues to push for its inclusion in the games.
The case for darts is simple. Although it takes years of practice to master, it can be played by anyone, regardless of age, sex, and gender. Moreover, the rules are also simple and it’s extremely easy and fun to watch. Take all these factors together and you have one of the most inclusive sports out there. It’s no wonder that it’s such a popular bar game. Of course, to be any good at it requires a ton of skill and concentration.
#3 - Bowling
Bowling nearly made the cut for the 2021 Olympics before getting beaten out by skateboarding and karate. With over 100 million players worldwide, Bowling is one of the most popular sports that still hasn’t made the Olympic stage. But due to its popularity, that’s likely to change soon.
Bowling, like darts, is an extremely inclusive sport. Of course, it also takes a ton of time and skill to reach mastery. But the most compelling case for bowling is its popularity. With countless professional tournaments worldwide and even scholarship opportunities at the collegiate level, bowling is simply too big to not be featured in the world’s ultimate sporting games. It’s time that bowling receives the legitimacy as a sport that it deserves.
#4 - Chess
Have you seen the Queen’s Gambit? I rest my case.
But if you haven’t, here’s what you need to know about chess. Chess is probably the only sport bigger than bowling to not be in the Olympics. 605 million people of all genders, ages, nationalities, and physical abilities play worldwide. Not to mention, chess was already an exhibition sport in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and is recognized by the IOC as a sport.
The main argument against chess is that it’s not a great spectator sport. Some matches between grandmasters have exceeded 6 straight hours of playing time. The other argument against chess is that it’s relatively complicated to follow for those who don’t know much about theory—which is most of us.
Both these issues, however, are completely solvable. First of all, it’s not uncommon for chess tournaments to set time limits for games. Secondly, good commentating would go a long way in making chess viewing accessible and engaging. In fact, watching chess online via YouTube and live streaming has actually become extremely popular in recent years, especially after the Netflix original, the Queen’s Gambit, drew the admiration of millions across the world.
And for those of you that say chess isn’t actually a sport, consider the amount of prolonged concentration that it takes to play the game at a really high level. It’s certainly a physical battle as much as a mental one. Chess is the perfect opportunity for the Olympics to expand their definition of athleticism to a broader, more inclusive term.
#5 - Squash
With over 20 million people who play squash globally in 185 different countries, it’s a surprise that squash hasn’t already been admitted to the Olympics. Unfortunately for squash-lovers, the sport has still yet to be admitted despite a number of petitions.
Critics of the sport claim that it doesn’t televise well and that there is an imbalance in skill level across the world. While it is true that Egypt consistently produces some of the best squash players and is currently the home of the top 11 of the top 20 ranked players in the world, every continent has produced at least one world champion, and the rest of the top players represent a wide variety of countries spanning Europe, South America, Asia, and Australia.
Squash is a great sport that has been steadily growing in popularity across the world, particularly among youth, making it a strong contender to be included in future Olympic games. The World Squash Federation plans to make another bid for the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024 with hopes that the support of French players Gregory Gaultier (former world #1 ) and Gregorie Marche (currently ranked #16) will improve their chances of taking to the big stage.