There seems to be more fluidity when it comes to Olympic sports these days. There was something of an uproar among Olympic traditionalists a few years ago when the International Olympic Committee decided to drop wrestling following the 2016 games. Soon thereafter, however, after a few rules changes, wrestling was reinstated, and will now be a part of the 2020 games in Tokyo. One of the oldest sports in the competition, it figures to have been reinstated for the long-term.
With each new cycle the IOC deals with applications by new sports, and the Tokyo games will actually be including five such sports. The organization unanimously approved a proposal by the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to include baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing at the next Olympics. It’s a fairly diverse range of new events that should add fresh dimensions to the competition and potentially rope in new viewership as well.
Also of interest, however – particularly for fans of lawn bowls – is the list of sports that were considered but ultimately not accepted. For instance, wushu and wakeboarding were both considered at least briefly. Even eSports, the competitive video gaming phenomenon that will already be joining the 2022 Asian Games, is being discussed as a potential addition for the Paris Olympics in 2024. This range of sports gives you some idea of just how many different proposals might be out there, and how broad the IOC’s considerations of potential new sports must necessarily be.
Bowls, by comparison to some of these other sports, would seem to be a logical inclusion. Needless to say, if eSports does make it into the 2024 Olympics, most everyone representing a physical sport that is not included will have a fresh argument to make. The Olympics are meant to celebrate sports, rather than games, and while eSports would certainly attract young viewers and fresh demographics, they could potentially distract from the spirit of the games. A pure physical activity like bowls, however, with a long history of competition between nations, would counter that distraction.
There are those in the sport who are angling to make it happen. Perhaps the most outspoken has been Scottish bowler Paul Foster, who’s expressed anger that bowling isn’t part of the Olympics when sports like golf have recently been added. One article quoted Foster as saying it’s “frustrating” not to have had the chance to compete at the Olympics despite being a top bowler. He acknowledges that because it’s never been an Olympic sport it might be unreasonable to expect it to become one. However, the same article notes that there is scope for lawn bowls to make it onto the Olympic stage one day, given so many new additions (including golf, rugby, and kitesurfing in addition to some of the sports mentioned above).
Right now there isn’t too much information out there about an active bid for 2024 (with 2020 being a lost cause at this point). But the more we see obscure sports making it into the games, and the more prominent figures like Paul Foster speak up, the better chance we’ll have of seeing the top bowlers in the world competing at the Olympics in the near future.