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Growing Rings

By: George Musto

Incredibly, the oldest achievement an athlete can have is ever-changing. Every year, teams from around the world throw their names in the hat in the hopes that their own athletes may one day be able to claim athleticism’s highest honor. Few succeed. This very year in Paris, however, and at future Olympic Games, the rings will encompass a small selection of new sports. But which ones? How did the assortment of sports and events we all enthusiastically cheer on each year even come to be in the first place?

This year, breaking, aka breakdancing, is making its debut Olympic appearance, along with sports climbing, which has undergone revisions regarding its categories since its 2020 debut in Tokyo. Surfing and skateboarding are two other sports introduced in Tokyo that are returning to Paris. Los Angeles’ 2028 summer Olympics are also bringing the 100+ year wait for the return of cricket, as well as newly added sports like squash and flag football. Breakdancing is one of the most anticipated new additions to the Olympics, though it is being kept relatively restricted, with only 16 athletes allowed to participate. With the exception of ice dancing, breakdancing is the only dance sport in the Olympics; however, it is far from the first competition with a more artistic component. Artistic swimming, artistic gymnastics, and figure skating have been proud members of the Olympic community for a long time, paving the way for other artistic sports like breakdancing. 

As one Conard student very astutely put it, breakdancing is like figure skating, “just not on ice,” so breakdancing was, in a way, a logical next step in the Olympic dance sports. Breakdancing as a concept is a relatively recent idea, finding its roots sometime in the 1970s. This lack of history does create some other problems, though, as many worry about the scoring system this new Olympic sport will employ, as it hasn’t had the time to develop a scoring system like the other artistic sports have. Every sport has to start somewhere, though, and the humblest of beginnings can lead to great success. 

I, for one, marvel at the popularity of sports like curling, which everyone seems to love, and biathlon, wherein competitors cross-country ski and shoot at targets. These sports seem obscure and strange to me, but I still love watching them every year, which is exactly why the Olympics are so dynamic. All we want is good competition and to be entertained, no matter if it's a new sport. Honestly, the mere fact that a relatively new dance concept could not only be created but become influential enough to be in the Olympics in such a short period of time is truly remarkable. 

Wait, though, is that how it even happened? Did breakdancing and all the other sports just become influential enough? Did they gain popularity? Well, it's clear that the selection process for Olympic sports is a gray area of sorts. In a way, this is out of necessity; there are too many sports in the world that likely have valid proposals for Olympic recognition and inclusion, so leaving as much as possible up to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) itself likely helps balance the inclusion of as many sports as possible with the needs and abilities of the Games. What do those committees consider, though? One natural answer would be pure participation. How many people play your sport? If you hit the threshold, you’re in. While this is likely a large factor in many cases, it is not a statistic to trust beyond all doubt. The 2028 addition of cricket proves this. Cricket is the second most popular sport in the world, numbers wise, with approximately 2.5 billion fans in the world; soccer is the only sport to beat it out with 3.5 billion. That alone suggests it should have been reinstated long ago, but what they fail to consider is that the sport is primarily played in the Indian subcontinent and a few other former British colonies. 

Cricket is a relatively concentrated sport. It may seem difficult, unfair, or just odd for cricket to be re-added when so few countries play it seriously; however, one Conard student countered while arguing on the basis of its “widespread popularity” when I brought up the cricket-shaped hole in the population argument. The Olympic committee seems to agree, deciding that potential sports “must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents.” 

So, sports like breakdancing, which have had a profound impact on countless communities and cultures worldwide, suddenly fit this bill perfectly. In addition, the committee claims that the sport must increase the ‘‘value and appeal” of the games (anyone else seeing the aforementioned gray area?). In the end, I think it all comes back to that one word I flippantly used earlier: influential. Breakdancing, cricket, surfing, skateboarding—they've all become well known and impacted countless corners of the Earth, and what is the Olympics but an attempt to bring together those corners, those 5 rings, to influence the world together, to see the light their athletes and their people shine, and why not let them shine in as many ways as possible? The only question now is: when will frisbee golf get its chance?

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