June 04, 2006

More Wishful Thinking and Free Publicity

Last week there was another one of those stories that pop up from time to time, the ones that claim "sport X wants to be in the Olympic Games!" Of course sport X is a pastime that may or may not even be a sport, which means that the story gets quickly propagated as an "odd news" bit and gets a bunch of free publicity as a result. The last one I saw was poker.

Last week's version has it that gaming (video gaming) is "pushing" for "Olympic recognition." I know I am only fueling this ridiculous story by publishing the link, but I can't help myself.

[Ted] Owen, who runs the Global Gaming League (GGL), a media company focused on the lifestyle and culture of gaming, is currently talking with the Chinese government in hopes of bringing competitive video gaming to the 2008 Games as a demonstration sport. … Owen, though, said he believes gaming's worldwide appeal - especially to a younger audience - could be the biggest boost to the Games since snowboarding. "People aren't watching [the Olympics] as much anymore," he argued. "You need to bring younger viewers back if you want to keep making money. To do that, you need to embrace non-traditional sports. They did it with snowboarding — and look how the popularity of that has surged in the Games. Video games deserve to be seen as a non-traditional sport. … They would bring something to the Games that [that age group] engages in and everyone understands."

There are so many things wrong with this whole thesis that I don't know where to start. I think I'll just stick to the administrative impossibilities:

  • The official sports for 2008 are cast in stone at this point. The programme for 2012 was selected last summer. You may remember that. There was quite a lot of publicity about it.
  • Ted Owen thinks that "The only reason they [the IOC] haven't done an exhibition sport in the past several years is no one has brought a good one to them." He is incorrect. The IOC placed a moratorium on demonstration sports at the winter or summer Olympics starting in 1996. There will not be any demonstration sports in 2008.
  • The GGL is not recognized as an international federation (IF) by the IOC and therefore has no standing (unlike other Olympic outsiders like DanceSport, Mountaineering and Climbing, and Wushu). Getting recognized is not trivial — among other things, the GGL would be required to "apply the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code and conduct effective out-of-competition tests." I'm not trying to cast any aspersions on gamers here, I just don't really think that the GGL has thought carefully about all of the burdens that go along with being on the inside of the Olympic movement.

I try not to get into discussions of whether "sport X" is or is not a sport, or "deserves" to be in the Olympics. Most people who do so end up making idiots of themselves rather quickly. Here's Exhibit A. Jason includes a list of sports that have "as little or less merit as being regarded as official sports." I assume he means that they deserve to be in the Olympics even less than gaming. I personally don't buy that argument for even one of the sports (actually disciplines or events, in some cases) on his list. But regardless, if you want to get your sport into the Olympics, surely you've got to have a more compelling argument than that.

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