Here’s an update you might not have been expecting: cheer is being recommended for full IOC recognition. Oh, and lacrosse too – though it’s likely you were expecting that one.
The announcement came out of Lausanne (the IOC’s headquarters) last week. In total, six international federations have been recommended for full Olympic recognition; they are as follows:
- The International Cheerleading Union (ICU) – provisionally recognized in 2016
- World Lacrosse (WL) – provisionally recognized in 2018
- The International Federation of Muay Thai Associations (IFMA) – provisionally recognized in 2016
- The International Sambo Federation (FIAS) – provisionally recognized in 2018
- The International Federation Icestocksport (IFI) – provisionally recognized in 2018
- The World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) – provisionally recognized in 2018
Muay Thai and sambo are both sports on the martial arts spectrum, while icestocksport is a bit more like curling. Kickboxing has been a niche sport in the U.S., and in addition to being a competitive pursuit, is often used as a form of fitness.
The next step in the process is for the IOC to take an official vote to confirm full recognition of these sports.
In order to move from provisional status to full Olympic recognition, international federations had to demonstrate that they fulfilled all the requested criteria. These include having statutes, practices and activities conforming with the Olympic Charter; and showing they had adopted and implemented the World Anti-Doping Code and the Olympic Movement Code on the Prevention of Manipulation of Competitions.
Additionally, all federations had to show they maintained independence and autonomy in the governance of their sports (in other words, there could only be one governing body responsible for the sport).
Finally, each international federation had to have a minimum of 50 affiliated national federations for summer sports (lacrosse and cheer fall into this category), and 25 affiliated national federations for winter sports, from at least three continents.
Finally, there had to be no objections from the member federations of any of the international federation associations.
Having cleared those hurdles, sports can expect to be included in the next vote from the IOC (which may come ahead of the Tokyo Olympics).
Oh, and speaking of the Olympics. What are the chances that either cheer or lacrosse, or even both, will lobby to be showcased in the Olympics in Los Angeles in 2028?
The chances are good, although nothing is guaranteed – and having full Olympic acceptance does not mean a sport goes into the Olympics. For reference, a full list of international federations and their Olympic standing can be found here. Multiple sports, including bandy, chess, several disciplines of motor sports, billiards and others, have long been on the list of formally approved sports, and have yet to make an appearance in the modern Games.
However, lacrosse and cheer, both being strong sports in America, may wind up in the Games – at least once. Following the International Olympic Committee's Agenda 2020 reforms, host cities can put forward potential additional sports to be added to the program for the Games. These sports are subject to change, as each hosting city may want to showcase its own particular sports.
For Tokyo 2020, baseball and softball (one lobby), karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing were added to the program. Paris 2024 opted to ditch baseball and softball (they are not mainstream there) and retain sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing and also added break dancing.
The frontline hopefuls for L.A. in 2028 are lacrosse, cheer, flag football, baseball and softball, surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding. Cricket has said it will lobby for inclusion, as will squash (which has been trying to get in for literally decades) and we can expect a few more to campaign as well. But with either four or five spots on the line, competition is expected to be fierce. Cheer and lacrosse both have North American pedigrees but so do many of the others.
Lacrosse is featured in the World Games that will come to Birmingham, Alabama next summer.
“I can’t think of a more significant milestone in the sport’s history,” Steve Stenersen, CEO of USA Lacrosse and Vice President of the FIL, said in 2018 when the IOC offered the FIL provisional recognition. “IOC recognition will strengthen the profile of lacrosse in all fil member countries and propel the sport to greater expansion throughout the world.”
But cheer is not without USA representation at the international multi-sport level either; this country sent a cheer squad to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang when selected countries were invited to send teams. (The University of Kentucky’s storied team was chosen to represent the country).
“We are thrilled to see the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive team recommend the International Cheer Union (ICU) for full recognition," notes Lauri Harris, executive director of USA Cheer. "The work being done around the world to further expand, and advance cheer is providing more and more opportunities for athletes of all abilities and formal recognition will go a long way in furthering that work.”
Worth noting: Only one organization has not moved out of the provisional stages: The International Federation of American Football.