Friday, July 27, 2012

Still Life With Robin: Fun on an Olympic Scale

by Peggy Robin

To get into the spirit of the London Olympics, before the opening ceremonies tonight, I thought I would look up what new sporting event was added by the host country this year. The answer is: Nothing

I am sad to report that it’s no longer the case --and hasn’t been since 1996-- that the host country gets to introduce the world to some athletic competition in which their own athletes are expected to excel. And that means everything I ever believed about curling as an Olympic event is plain wrong. That is, it was not introduced by Canada for the Calgary games; I learned that it was first unveiled as a “demonstration sport” at the 1998 Olympic winter games in the Nagano, Japan, and was accepted by the International Olympic Committee as an official sport in 2002. (Actually, it had been played at the winter Olympics once before, in 1924 in Chamonix, France, where the gold medal was taken home by a combined team from Great Britain and Ireland. Nice to hear about a sport played on ice during this heat wave, isn’t it? -- even if it is the most ridiculous sport imaginable. Unless you can think of a more ridiculous thing to watch than a bunch of grown men skating slowly down the ice with brooms, just inches ahead of some weirdly shaped, handle-topped rock, sweeping maniacally as they go.)

Wait, I will get back to other ridiculous games in a moment…

Now as to the reason behind the loss of the host country's sport-picking prerogative: A hasty bit of Googling reveals that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to yank the privilege after the number of Olympic events reached 47, the point at which the IOC agreed that this this whole extravaganza was ballooning out of control. Incidentally, that number 47 is number of categories of sport -- meaning all 34 of the swimming races count as one thing: “swimming,” and all 20 of the various biking events (divided into four sub-categories of BMX, road cycling, track cycling, and mountain biking) count as one thing: “cycling”. There are 32 summer categories --or disciplines, as the IOC prefers to call them --and 15 winter ones.

So there will be no Olympic cricket match for the Brits -- though they’d probably lose to India or Pakistan if they were allowed to bring it back; it had been in the Olympics once upon a time (the 1900 Paris Games), and Great Britain had bested the home country France by 158 runs.

Back in 1984, when the US hosted the summer Olympics in LA, we were able to bring in baseball as a “demonstration sport” and it went on to be accepted as as official sport eight years later in the 1992 Barecelona Games. Alas, our national pastime lasted only four Olympiads after that, with Beijing 2008 as its swan song. It's now gone from the London Games.

Meanwhile, the pressure is building from all corners of the globe to add new sports -- or add ancient ones that are enjoying a modern boom in popularity. Top contenders include: mixed martial arts; yoga (although there are several different types, all warring to get in), lacrosse, and skateboarding. All these and more have their merits, but I’d like to propose some sports that I think would be a lot more fun to watch. I’ve arranged the list in David Letterman style, moving from last place to first -- though I think I must concede all are about equal in their improbability of acceptance by the IOC:

10. Leapfrog. However much fun it is to watch runners race over hurdles, think how much better it would be to watch them vault over other crouched people. If Tug of War could be an Olympic sport (as it was from 1900 to 1920), then why not leapfrog? Give it a frogging chance!

9. Jump rope. There already hundreds of jump rope competitions around the world, and they’re jumptastic.Take a look at a few of the videos: (World Championship, Japan) (USA Championship) (Double dutch world champions)

8. Hula hoop. Well, I know there’s already a thing called “rhythmic gymnstics” which features a hoop event -- but the competitors do everything with that hoop except the usual how-long-can-you-keep-it-spinning routine. And isn't that really what we all want to see?

7. Foosball. The reason it would have been good to have foosball in these London Olympic Games is that there may be a lot of rain delays, and that could be bad for fans of real life-size soccer played on an outdoor pitch. But no amount of rain outside can keep those teeny-weeny twirly little soccer men from kicking balls on a foosball table indoors. And they don’t need a multi-billion dollar stadium, either; they do just fine in some guy’s basement. It’s time to bring them to the big time!

6. Darts. Archery is an Olympic sport, so why not darts? There are many times more good darts players around the world than archers. Any country that has proper pubs should be able to field a first-rate Olympics darts team. The UK should have insisted on this as a condition of hosting.

5. Spud. You may not remember the rules of this game, but you probably learned it at summer camp. I did, and it was one of the few outdoor field games I was actually good at. For that reason alone, I propose it as an Olympic event.

4. Pinata bashing. In addition to Olympic medals, the winners would get candy!

3. Frisbee – with dogs. Animals are already part of Olympic events: There are six equestrian events, so there’s ample precedent for a human/dog sport to be included. There’s already a World Cup of Dog Frisbee I say fetch it to Rio in 2016!

2. Marco Polo. Way better than water polo, which is hard for spectators to follow. Imagine the thrill of hearing the familiar call of “Marco” echoing in that grand Olympic Aquatic Centre, followed by a chorus of “Polos” and then see if the swimmer who’s “it” can follow the sound and tag one of the “Polos” without peeking? Give extra points to the player who does a humongous cannonball into the water right behind "It".

1. And now for the number one event I’d like to see added to the next summer Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. One word: TWISTER!


Have any sports you'd like to elevate to Olympic status? Please use the comments section below to boost your favorites.


Still Life With Robin is published on All Life Is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv on Fridays.


  1. I like Skeeball!

  2. Squash, honestly, should be an Olympic sport. It deserves to be one and is played in nearly every country in the world.

  3. I'm still mad that they took baseball out! Why? It meets all the criteria (played on at least 3 continents -- N. America, S. America, Asia (it's big in Japan). Women's softball is gone, too. Both should make a comeback.