It has the distinction of bringing tournaments to a multitude of cities. It’s played in bars and basements worldwide. It’s fun, easy to learn and accessible to those with mobility limitations. And now, it’s trying for Olympic inclusion.
According to ThoughtCo.com, “Pool players have never had the chance to rack balls, crush a break shot, and vie for medals at the Olympic Games. Billiards have long been considered a game, rather than a sport. But that may change in the future.”
Two of the major bodies that govern billiards in the U.S. and internationally — the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the World Confederation of Billiards — pushed to have pool included in the 2024 Olympic Games after being denied a chance to have the sport be part of the 2020 event in Tokyo.
And last week, snooker, the cue sport bearing a striking resemblance to pool, threw its hat into the ring, launching a bid to become part of the sports program at the Olympic Games during a special ceremony its leaders hosted at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Supported by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) and the World Snooker Federation (WSF), the announcement event was attended by former world snooker champion Shaun Murphy and representatives from the French Billiard Federation (FFB), as well as WPBSA vice chairman Nigel Mawer.
Jason Ferguson, President of the WSF, claimed the day was "an important landmark" in what was “a serious bid” for inclusion.
"With the levels of participation in our great sport consistently increasing and new opportunities being created by the WSF and its partners for people across the globe to be able to pick up a cue, the sport has never been in a stronger position to take its rightful place on the Olympic program," he said.
Snooker unsuccessfully applied for inclusion in the games at Tokyo in 2020. Three years after that initial bid however, the WPBSA claimed it is in "a significantly stronger position" as the sport continues to grow.
In a statement released to announce the news, the body said snooker has "a proven track record" of staging high quality events, adding that the World Snooker Tour has a "television reach" of 1.6 billion homes.
The sport was also included in the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw in Poland, meaning it may be seen in Birmingham, Alabama, in 2021.
As part of the bid, a demonstration event will be staged in Paris next year to “showcase the Olympic values” of billiard sports.
Paris 2024 officials will submit their recommendations for new sports in the first half of 2019. Among the sports vying for inclusion are baseball and softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing (which have been included on the program for Tokyo 2020), and squash, which has bid unsuccessfully to be included in the last three Olympic Games. However, with squash having a strong French connection and baseball and softball having very little relevance to that country, and with both boules and darts campaigning for inclusion as well, it’s likely there may be some shake-ups coming along.
For the uninitiated who are wondering about the difference between snooker, billiards and pool – well, the terms are often used interchangeably – and mistakenly. A detailed description of each sport can be found here.
But whether or not snooker becomes an Olympic sport, planners may be wondering what’s in it for them – and the answer is a lot. Already, destinations have carved out a niche hosting table sports events. Erie, Pennsylvania, for example, hosts the Pennsylvania State 8-Ball Tournament – and has done so for 36 years. The tournament, presented annually by Warner Coin Machine, is the fourth largest 8-ball tournament in the country. Nearly 200 tables are set up for competition, and 2,000 players will travel from across the state and beyond for the event. (The tournament grew from a four-table event to being a national draw.)
The event also has a healthy spectator base and includes pool entertainers Tom Rossman, also known as “Dr. Cue,” and Dave Pearson. Rossman has appeared in more than 5,000 shows, teaching clinics and special event appearances since 1974. Pearson is a British professional pool player who currently holds four records in the Guinness Book of World Records and has performed regularly on major network television, including Good Morning America and The Today Show.
Across the U.S., other destinations are hosting table sports, including tournaments sanctioned by the American Poolplayers Association, including locations as varied as Las Vegas, Tampa and St. Louis. The United States Billiard Association, meanwhile, the national governing body for carom billiards, has tournaments coming up in Tacoma, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
For those interested in catching a stateside glimpse of what might be the next Olympic sport, the United States Snooker Association (USSA) is headquartered in Berkeley, California. USSA is a member of the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF), the world governing body of non-professional English billiards and snooker, and is also affiliated to the American CueSports Alliance (ACS), which also represents the USSA in the Pan-American Billiard Confederation, the continental governing body for billiard sports throughout the Americas.
The USSA organizes the annual United States National Snooker Championship, with the winner and runner-up having the opportunity to represent the United States in the following IBSF World Snooker Championships. It also sponsors the United States Snooker Association Tour. The Pan-American Snooker Championships will be held in Houston from January 30-February 3.