Sports consulting newsletter #4 - Introduction of sports to the Olympics has been saved
Sports consulting newsletter #4 - Introduction of sports to the Olympics
Great news for breakdancing, skateboarding, climbing, and surfing fans! As announced on 27 March 2019 by the Olympic committee in a press release, the committee approved the Paris 2024 proposal to include these sports in the 2024 Summer Olympics program. Actually, as breakdance, skateboard and climbing will already be represented at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, a very final validation may still be expected concerning these sports being included in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. As will be made clear in this newsletter – no sport’s inclusion is permanent at the Olympics!
In this context, this newsletter looks at the introduction of sports to the Olympics program. In particular, it touches on the criteria for the inclusion of sports, the incentives for sports to be represented, and the selection process.
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A first pre-requisite for sports to be included in the Olympic program is to be recognized as a sport by the Olympic Committee. Then, it needs to be acknowledged as an international sport. The Olympic Committee has established some requirements regarding this aspect: sports to be added to the Summer Olympics must be practiced by men in at least 75 countries on four continents and by women in 40 countries on three continents.
If the sport is validated as an international sport, it will then be evaluated against various criteria as stated in the factsheet published by the Olympic committee. These criteria include:
- Olympic history: whether it has been included in the program before
- Sport status: its governance, gender equality, strategic planning
- Value added to the Olympic movement: whether the sport shares the Olympic values
- Popularity: number of spectators, media interest, presence of top athletes
- Business model: income generated and costs of hosting the sport
Another aspect that is increasingly being considered is the attractiveness of the sport and the Olympic Games to millennials. The Paris 2024 Committee has recognized the challenges of connecting with new generations and encouraging them to watch the Olympics. Integrating sports that appeal to younger generations, such as breakdancing and skateboarding, has the potential to make the Olympics more inclusive by attracting a wider audience. The Olympic Committee hopes that this will also incentivize younger generations to exercise more.
Why apply to the Olympics?
Every four years, a list of sports that aspire to be included in the Olympics is submitted to the local Games committee. Major athletes and their federations usually cooperate to lobby for their sport. For athletes, it is a great opportunity to accomplish the Olympic dream, representing their country in the biggest sport event, performing in large stadiums in front of an international crowd and competing against the best athletes for the ultimate prize in sports. For the sport representatives, the Olympics are a unique opportunity to market their sport - the Olympics are watched by billions of people (around 3.6 billion in 2016) and enjoy a wide media coverage. In addition to the increased promotion of the sport, representation at the Olympics brings some financial return through sponsorship and funds from the Olympics Committee.
The decision process
Sports that seek to be represented at the Olympics first need to lobby their sport to the local Games committees. As explained in the “Sports on the Olympic Program” factsheet published by the Olympic Committee, each local organization committee is permitted to propose up to five sports to include in their Olympic program, in addition to the 28 traditional Olympic sports. Once a selection of sports has been submitted, it is up to the Olympic Committee to make the final decision. The Committee is made up of 115 members, including active or ex athletes, presidents, and managing directors of international federations and sport organizations.
Once a sport is approved for the Olympics, athletes in this sport will have the honor of representing their country and competing for the gold medal. However, after four years, representatives of less historic and less traditional Olympic sports will have to advocate for their sport again if they want to participate in the next Olympics, as no inclusion in the Olympic program is considered permanent. On the one hand, this encourages sport representatives to regularly rethink their sport and ensure its evolution is aligned with Olympics values. On the other hand, it provides an opportunity for the Olympic Committee to modify the program in a way that is in line with the evolving interests and values of society.
Giulia Bruni Roccia
Eleonore Moreau Gentien