The Olympic Games have evolved and with them, the sports presented. Some aspects of sports were eliminated (compulsory figures in figure skating, for example, which were removed after 1990) and some sports were removed entirely after being deemed less commercially viable (like ski ballet as pioneered by Suzy “Chapstick” Chaffee, which never made it past the Olympic demonstration sport stage in 1988 and 1992.)
Sport elimination hasn’t stopped, though some axed sports did make it back in. Wrestling left (briefly) and then was reinstated in what was largely viewed as a political move. Baseball and softball were eliminated but will make a comeback in 2020. Golf and rugby returned to the Olympics in 2016 after nearly a century of absence (rugby) and more than a century (golf).
Shooting sports are the latest sports to face changes. And while firearm sports as a whole remain on the Games program, some formats are expected to be axed – and the international governing body reluctantly admits, that unlike baseball, softball and wrestling (or golf or rugby, for that matter), these sport formats, once eliminated, may vanish altogether from the Games, meaning there will be fewer people participating in them at the local, regional and national level as well.
In an article carried in Inside The Games, International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) President Olegario Vázquez Raña said reinstatement would be "almost impossible" if these sports are cut from Tokyo 2020.
Vázquez Raña was speaking after members of the ISSF approved the establishment of a forum, comprised of key stakeholders within the sport such as coaches, member federations and athletes, to look into possible changes to the sport's Olympic program beyond Tokyo 2020.
One of the key tasks facing the group was to assess whether the events which have been cut from Tokyo 2020 could return, possibly as early as 2024.
According to the plan, mixed team competitions in 10-meter air rifle, 10-meter air pistol and trap will replace the men's 50-meter prone rifle, 50-meter pistol and double trap events 2020. The IOC officially gave the green light to the ISSF's proposal, which meets its gender equality requirements, in June.
According to Vázquez Raña, double trap faces an uphill battle if it is to regain its place. He cited problems with the format, including exponentially higher costs of equipment and a lagging participation among women. Additionally, he notes, it would be difficult for 50-meter pistol to return to the Games, but the potential exists, if there is strong enough promotion to generate growth among women. Prone shooting has perhaps the strongest potential for a comeback since it sees participation across both genders.
“I want to be perfectly honest, it is almost impossible for double trap to come back,” Vázquez Raña said. In fact, he notes, over approximately the last two decades, there have been very few new women athletes coming into double trap. The IOC’s strict policies concerning gender equality in sports means it if a sport cannot successfully be offered for both men and women, it cannot remain in the Olympics.
The changes to the Tokyo 2020 program have been opposed by a group led by ISSF vice-president Luciano Rossi.
Event owners are likely aware of lagging participation in some formats, but if NGBs or other groups are trying to promote specific formats, it could make for a fun event and an excellent publicity opportunity in the community.
The idea to eliminate various formats grew out of the IOC’s analysis of shooting events from the Rio Games, which showed double trap, men's 50-meter pistol and 50-meter prone rifle were three of the four least popular competitions based on media consumption data. (Men's and women's 10-meter air rifle and air pistol all ranked in the top four in terms of media consumption of shooting shorts.)
Other changes await Olympic viewers this time around, including the following, shown on the graphic below.