The inclusion of Breaking at the 2024 Olympic Games
Since the inception of the Modern Olympic Games in 1896, the evolution of the greatest sporting event in history has been profound. Having offered 9 sports in its’ inaugural outing in Athens, next years’ delayed Tokyo Olympic Games will see a record 33 sports competing across 339 medal events in 42 venues, a far cry from the very first competition in Greece.
What Sports Are At The Olympic Games?
Throughout this time there have been a plethora of changes and whilst it used to be the responsibility of the host city to dictate the sporting events taking place, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) now takes that responsibility.
The IOC is a non-profit independent international organisation made up of volunteers that are responsible for the primary decisions regarding the Olympic Games; including the events to be taking place.
In order for a sport to be considered for the Olympic Games, the IOC must recognise a demonstrable popularity among both genders across the world. In order to qualify for consideration, men from at least 75 countries and women from at least 50 countries should practice the sport and this must be spread across the four continents. Whilst this factor remains non-negotiable, there are certain considerations that can be slightly more subjective.
As a result, the evolution of sport as an entity and the technology that facilitates it has resulted in considerable change in the last century. The tug-of-war is a long-forgotten early example of a sport lost to the annals of history and the introduction and subsequent removal of baseball, golf and water motorsports, amongst others, has evolved with the demands and interests of modern society.
New Olympic Sports
Whilst considering new and emerging sports for competition at the Olympic Games, the IOC, along with the consideration of participation and engagement with a sport, must consider its’ practical application and visual aspects, as put forward by the sports’ governing body. The marketability of certain sports has a direct impact on the suitability of its’ inclusion at the Games in the eyes of the IOC. For many governing bodies throughout the sporting world, the financial impact of a 4-year Olympic training cycle is of serious consideration. With all medals awarded and treated equally, the financial costs of training a squad of 20-30 plus supporting the coaching and management staff for an elite team sport can be significantly higher than the costs of training an individual athlete and their support team who has an equally good chance of medalling at the Games.
As a result of all of this, the recent announcement of the inclusion of Breakdancing at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games is predominantly due to the IOC’s desire to appeal to a younger generation. With a predominantly younger cohort of participants, Breakdancing will see athletes judged on their power, style, co-ordination and timing.
Whilst ‘Breaking’, as it is preferred to be known by, is most definitely a new and innovative way to increase the appeal of the Olympic Games, the same inclusion of the sport has been an evocative and controversial topic, noticeably overlooking a number of other sports competing for inclusion, such as squash.
Having originally been trialled at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games alongside Karate and Climbing as new events at Youth Olympic Games, the latter two events will experience the pinnacle of sport one cycle earlier, at the 2021 Tokyo Games.
With the IOC having to give at least 3 years’ notice before including any new sport to the Olympic format, the popularity of Breaking at the 2018 Games provided the platform from which the IOC has diversified its’ competition at the 2024 Games.
Whilst the controversial inclusion of the latest sport to grace the Olympic stage diversifies the offering in 2024, the relatively unknown background and history of Breaking when compared to other sports in contention for a place has thrust the sport and those prominent within it into the spotlight.
Cancelled Olympic Sports
Despite the introduction of Breaking (Paris 2024) alongside Sport Climbing and Surfing (Tokyo 2021), The IOC have actually reduced the number of medals available as well as the number of athletes able to compete. With 329 medal events in Paris, the 2024 Games will see a decrease of 10 events from the 2021 Tokyo Games. 4 of these will be lost specifically from weightlifting and the number of athletes allowed to compete at the Games will be 600 less in Paris, at a total of 10,500.
With changes therefore coming every 4 years, should the IOC keep changing the format and make-up of the Games?
It would be slightly out of place to see a tug-of-war competition in the Olympic Games in 2024 so there is an obvious argument to be made of being able to change with the times. However a consistently changing allocation of athlete numbers and competing sports can change the identity of the Games altogether, something that the IOC have stated their intentions of doing so to attract a younger audience with more urban events. Whilst this change in perspective will evidently not please everybody, the IOC maintains the rights to implement any and all new competition rules and implications moving forward.
A strong argument against the changing of sports and allocation of athletes is the temporal validity that can subsequently be attributed to medals won at the Olympic Games. The difference in a 4-year cycle between Games can be the difference between an athlete being able to call themselves an Olympian or an Olympic Champion, as opposed to not being able to compete at all.
Whilst sports competing at the Olympic Games inevitably see an increase in participation rates in the immediate aftermath of a Games, this can often be ti the detriment of those sports not showcased. The desire to be labelled as an Olympic Sport can be often be attributable to the significant impact on the sustainability and participation of the sport for the future.
What do you think would make a great Olympic Sport?
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