Want to talk about internationally-contested sports? Forget baseball and softball. Think about rugby, pole dancing, e-sports and arm-wrestling. Oh, and match poker. Played with smartphones instead of actual cards.
While Olympics enthusiasts wait for a decision on new sports to be allowed in future Games, the world of international governing bodies keeps expanding its horizons as to precisely what defines a sport.
In the last few months, SportAccord, an umbrella organization for international sports federations (both Olympic and non-Olympic) as well as organizers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations, has been hearing presentations from a variety of international governing bodies who would like to be considered for membership.
Membership in SportAccord, say some, is a first step toward recognition at the IOC level. Therefore, making a case to SportAccord becomes essential to various sports’ visibility, funding and more. Among things that SportAccord studies before granting admission is governance, anti-doping, universality, promotion and finance and development.
In March, SportAccord heard from a number of governing bodies of sports desiring inclusion, according to an article in Inside The Games. These were the International eSports Federation, parkour (as put forward by the International Parkour Federation and Mouvement International du Parkour, Freerunning et l’Art Du Déplacement), the World Armwrestling Federation, the International Federation of Poker, Rugby League International Federation, Kabaddi, the International Roll Ball Federation, World Dodgeball Association, International Practical Shooting Confederation, International Woodball Federation, International Kurash Federation and International Pole Sports Federation.
Go ahead and Google anything you don’t recognize, by the way.
Arm wrestling, poker and rugby league were recommended for full membership of SportAccord; others were recommended for deferral.
So pole sports (yes, that includes pole dancing), Kabbadi, dodgeball and more will have to try another day.
Among the sports that did receive tentative approval was poker, as submitted by the London-based International Federation of Poker, which is hoping to popularize match poker, a team-based, non-gambling, e-sport version of poker in which players play for points rather than cash. (Hands are dealt by smartphones rather than with cards.)
Rugby League International Federation recently launched plans to help make rugby league more popular around the world. Among new members it has granted recognition too in recent years have been Serbia, Lebanon, Ukraine, Russia and Jamaica. (A separate organization in the United States is hoping the sport will gain traction here.)
The World Armwrestling Federation is based in Sofia in Bulgaria. Former in 1977, it has 60 members. In 2014, the WAF was granted official recognition by the International Paralympic Committee.
Although SportAccord did give its tentative approval, it was in the process of its own elections and therefore, it decided not to take formal action in terms of approving any sport. Now, however, with the elections behind it and a new president (Switzerland’s Patrick Baumann) installed, there may be new movement in the adoption of sports.
In his opening address, Baumann vowed to assess the state of aspects of SportAccord with his Council colleagues before considering potential changes. Major priorities include an assessment of the process to select new sports for SportAccord membership.
So who knows? Maybe pole sports, dodgeball and others will be at the table again.