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Boules vs. Darts: Which Sport Deserves Olympic Recognition in 2024?

22 Aug, 2018

By: Michael Popke

In what is being treated as a major decision, the International Olympic Committee will choose between adding darts (yes, the game you know from club basements, rec rooms and pubs) or boules (a game played with metal balls similar to bocce) to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

French leaders are pushing for boules, as Paris will host the Olympics in six years. The game’s roots lie in many European countries, as well as former French colonies in Africa and Asia.

According to the Boules Sport 2024 website, three disciplines of boules (Petanque, Boule Lyonnaise, and Raffa Volo) “are represented in 165 countries, via 262 federations and more than 200 million players.” The sport has received trial runs in other global competitions, including the World Games, Mediterranean Games, Asian Indoor Games, S.E.A Games, All Africa Games, Pacific Games, Commonwealth Games and Asian Beach Games. 

"’Since I’ve been president, we’ve been trying to get the boules into the Olympics for Paris 2024," Claude Azema, head of the France-based World Confederation of Ball Sports, toldInside the Games. "We have been presenting our case at IOC events and at international forums. We have been meeting people and we have talked about our plans. We have had a lot of interest. The image of our sport is particularly interesting — it will look good on television and is certain to attract good crowds. We can play, not anywhere, but in many, many places. It is easy to organize, easy to prepare. There is no special expense in preparing the ground. We just need to have some places for the people to sit. We would expect maybe five, six or even seven thousand people who would want to see this sport.’"

Darts has its supporters, too. Sir Clive Woodward, England’s World Cup-winning former rugby coach, is one of them.

“The world of sport is evolving, the Olympics is evolving and I want to see darts in the Games,” Woodward wrote in Britain’s Daily Maillast year. “Easier said than done, but it ticks all the boxes. Sport is about people striving to do their best, competing to win while also accepting loss. Darts has all that and much more. Darts is a sport of and for the people and that is what the modern-day Olympics is striving very hard to reflect. If you made darts an Olympic sport tomorrow, almost overnight millions of men and women from the age of 15 to 65 would suddenly nurture private hopes and ambitions that they could be Olympic champions. It’s that accessible.” 

International darts champion, Dutchman Michael van Gerwan, recently told a New Zealand website that his sport would be right at home in the Olympics program. “If people say is it a physical sport for the Olympics, I say no, but I see other sports there, so why not?” he said.

Other supporters have called darts“like tiny archery” and “miniature javelin.”

Surfing, sport climbing and karate will be among six new sports introduced at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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