May 31, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 12 comments
At a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, earlier today, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted provisional recognition to the World Flying Disc Federation, a necessary first step for any efforts to have Ultimate included in the Olympic Games.
The IOC, the organization that manages and runs the modern Olympics, held an Executive Board meeting over the past three days. There, they agreed that WFDF had completed the recognition procedure and “noted that the WFDF is a rapidly growing Federation with tremendous youth appeal, a strong grounding in Olympic ideals, gender equality and good governance, including WADA compliance.”
“WFDF welcomes this recognition to join the Olympic family and we confirm the commitment of the flying disc community to the ideals set out in the Olympic Charter,” said WFDF President Robert “Nob” Rauch in a statement. “Our strong value of ‘spirit of the game’ on the field of play and off of it has always reflected these principles. We thank the IOC Executive Board and administration for their support and encouragement, and our Member Associations, board of directors, and athletes for their enthusiasm and commitment to this process.”
To be clear, this does not mean that Ultimate is set to join the Olympics. There are dozens of sports — like baseball and golf — that are IOC recognized but not found in the Olympics. This is the first step in a very long and difficult process that will take decades; it may never come to pass.
In an August 2012 article, we explored the possibility of Ultimate joining the Olympics:
[quote]There are a lot of stumbling blocks. First of all, there need to be 75 member countries in a sport’s international federation to even be considered for the Summer Games; WFDF currently falls far short. Even if WFDF were to meet all the prerequisites, the process to be named an Olympic sport still takes many years. “The biggest issue we will face with Ultimate is that the Olympic games have become so large that we face logistical challenges,” said Rauch. Since the Games are capped at a certain number of athletes, Ultimate would have to take the place of at least one other sport to be included.[/quote]
The fundamentals have not changed. The Olympics is a colossal, money-driven event. Large team sports like Ultimate are not attractive, because of the cost of housing players, travel, etc.
IOC recognition, however, should have some short-term benefits. It will help by opening up the financial resources of national Olympic committees to national Ultimate organizational bodies like USA Ultimate. It could also accelerate the international growth of the sport.
“This recognition by the IOC today is a very important milestone for flying disc sports, and should greatly support our grass roots development programs in countries around the world, opening the door for our members to seek their own National Olympic Committee recognition,” said Rauch. “However, this is just the start of a long journey as we look to further develop disc sports and fulfill all the criteria stipulated by the IOC so that one day we will have a product which is equal to the current sports of the Olympic Games in both sports excellence and commercial interest.”
FURTHER READING: Will Ultimate Ever Become An Olympic Sport?