If this actually takes place, it might be the greatest thing to happen to fishing since the invention of the earthworm.
The international governing body for fishing (the Confederation Internationale de la Peche Sportive, or in English, the International Confederation of Sport Fishing) has applied for Olympic status in the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
And unlike some of the niche sports that are currently included in, or vying for, Olympic status, fishing has enormous numbers to back up its popularity, according to Wide Open Spaces, which notes,
“According to stats, there are as many as 50 million active anglers in the US. Unsurprisingly then, the number of worldwide anglers would be well into the hundreds of millions. For that reason, the fishing world is hoping there will be enough attraction to convince the Olympic committee to bite.
According to the application, the 2020 Olympic Games might include a catch-and-release form of competition fishing. Though some might call fishing pure luck, anglers from around the world are applauding the effort. The Confederation argues that fishing offers an ‘ancient and fair competition system.’ This argument closely matches Olympic ideology, and it just might be enough to land angling as the next official Olympic sport.”
And hey, it might be one of the oldest sports known to man.
As we know already, several new sports will be featured in 2020, among them karate, sport climbing, surfing and roller sports, in an attempt to draw a new and younger demographic, something the IOC has been hungering for. And in the U.S., fishing is growing at the high school and college levels as well, meaning that younger audience is thriving and expanding.
One interesting aspect of fishing is that it could be implemented as both a winter and summer Olympic sport, with variations for cold weather such as ice fishing. Fishing is also widely supported by an industry that produces boats, motors, rods, waders and a range of gear too wide to mention – with many of those manufacturers already involved as sponsors of various sports events. The money, it would seem, is almost certainly present in the industry, and could be used to propel participation initiatives, as well as education and training for athletes.
But despite fishing’s popularity, its application is not being met with unanimous cheers. Alan Hubbard wrote in a blog in Inside the Games that as an increasing number of sports (which he does not define as such) are admitted to the Games, “I predict that by the middle of this century, the Olympics could even be a Games of two halves - one featuring the core traditional sports such as track and field, swimming, boxing and gymnastics, and the other an assortment of the rest and current wannabes.”
Something that could present a true obstacle would be the lack of consistency in fishing waters (and game) in each destination the Olympics were held, meaning that it would require athletes to have an incredibly diverse range of skills and knowledge, given even the variations on warm-weather fishing (just a few of which include deep sea fishing, fly-fishing, bass fishing and spear fishing.) It also raises the question of variables such as bat, tackle and more. Would these be standardized?
“It’s unclear what the target species would be,” notes an article in Field & Stream on the subject.
One thing is for sure: the host nation (and its closest neighbors) would almost certainly have an advantage, having long been accustomed to fishing for indigenous species in those waters.
If this comes to pass, it will be not only the Confederation, but local and national tournament groups in each country helping to map out a course for the sport, and providing input to create events that everyone can agree are fair.
The Olympics have only ever featured fishing one other time: in 1900, the Games in Paris listed fishing as an unofficial sport. According to the BBC, six nations (including France) took part in the event and the results were not documented. Wikipedia notes that some 600 fisherman, of whom 40 were from the five countries other than France, participated in four separate events.
According to Inside The Games, the IOC will vote on fishing's application in December. Pole sports also submitted an application. Among other applications expected are arm wrestling, poker and rugby league.