What Does USOC Recognition Mean For Possible Olympic Games Inclusion?

An obvious question to ask after today’s big news about USAU getting USOC recognition is: so when will ultimate be in the Olympics?

Take a deep breath — it’s not at all likely in the near term. But there is more hope now than there was a year ago.

Currently, there is a 28 sport, 10,500 athlete cap on the Summer Olympics. What that means is that ultimate would have to replace another sport at the Olympics in order to join the program, which is not at all likely. First of all, we are still a year away from full IOC recognition for WFDF. Second, only 11 countries’ National Olympic Committees even recognize ultimate. Third, ultimate — as the policy currently stands — would have to replace another sport.

That’s just not going to happen.

The only realistic path for ultimate’s inclusion is many years from now in a world where ultimate has proven to be an appealing spectator sport and can ensure a wide viewing audience at the Olympics. And the cap on the number of sports will absolutely have to be lifted.

There is reason to believe that it will be, however. The new President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has expressed that he wants more flexibility in the way new sports can be added to the games. Earlier this year, he presented the Olympic Agenda 2020 — his vision for overhauling the IOC’s processes.

The agenda mentions considering “rotation in the Olympic Village” to allow “more sports, disciplines, athletes, [and] events” at the Games. It also mentions basing the Olympics on disciplines and events, not sports. That should be encouraging to fans of ultimate.

Perhaps even better is the call to “encourage gender equality and universality in the Olympic programme.”

The agenda explicitly calls for “gender equity” through more “mixed events.” Given that ultimate has already been a successful Mixed event at the World Games, it becomes an obvious candidate to fulfill those criteria.

The IOC will meet again at the end of this year to discuss the agenda and start to put new protocols into place. We will have a much better sense about the chances ultimate has to reach the Olympics at that point.

In the overarching push towards the Olympics, the USOC’s recognition of USA Ultimate is more of a required checkbox than a significant step forward. There are much more tangible benefits here in the States for USAU than there are at the Olympic level. Regardless, a mandatory hurdle has been cleared, and eyes turn towards WFDF’s bid for full IOC recognition in Summer 2015.

For further reading, see my story on WFDF’s provisional recognition and the broader Olympic movement.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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