The games behind the Olympic GamesPublished 9:19am Friday, June 7, 2013
Column: Guest Column, by Tom Purcell
Washington, D.C., is in the grip of scandals, the economy is stumbling and a host of other challenges are weighing me down — which is why I prefer to dwell on more obscure subjects, such as a battle raging behind the scenes over the 2020 Olympics.
According to the Toronto Star, the International Olympic Committee shocked the world in February when it dropped wrestling from its list of core sports for the 2020 games — in favor of other sports more likely to interest younger viewers.
Well, the wrestling folks aren’t going down without a fight. Wrestling had been competing with seven other sports for a single 2020 opening: baseball/softball (baseball, cut in the past, is fighting for a new spot), squash, inline speed skating, sport climbing (rock climbing), wakeboarding (a form of water skiing), karate and wushu (kung fu fighting). Last week, the list was narrowed to wrestling, baseball/softball and squash.
Personally, I think any of those eight sports would make for a great Olympic event. Sure, I might prefer racquetball over squash, but baseball is a great American-invented sport, inline speed skating is a blast to watch, rock climbing is scary and exhilarating, wakeboarding is hugely entertaining, and who doesn’t want to see karate and kung fu fighting?
Besides, the choices could be plenty worse.
Yahoo News reports that, with the popularity of TV dancing contests, some are pushing to add ballroom dancing to the Olympic roster.
Sure, the games have not traditionally included “artistic” events, but ballroom enthusiasts argue that rhythmic gymnastics — in which gymnasts jump around with hoops, batons and brightly colored fabric — has been added to the Olympic list.
Sure, ballroom dancing requires athleticism and finesse. It is an art form celebrated by American greats Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
Then again, any American “sport” in which you can blow out a knee by tripping over the buffet table probably shouldn’t quality as an Olympic event.
That brings us to pole dancing — that’s right, pole dancing. According to the British newspaper The Independent, some hope this “sport” made popular by women who shed their clothes in smoky bars can one day become an Olympic sport.
I’d pay good money (again) to see that.
Which brings us to bowling.
Chuck Pezzano of The Record, a New Jersey newspaper, said the bowling people have made several attempts to have their sport added to the Olympic roster over the years. During the 1936 games, they staged exhibitions and tournaments. Though well-received, bowling did not make the cut. They staged another exhibition at the Seoul Olympics in 1988, also without result.
Bowling “features men, women and children, (and is) well organized in more than 100 bowling federations around the world. There are no barriers because of size, age, sex or language. Rules are fairly simple: A country with thousands of bowling centers or a nation with one can develop a team or an individual to qualify for one of the events, despite limited budgets,” Pezzano writes.
Better yet, bowling requires tremendous balance and stamina — only a true competitor can drink three pitchers of beer and still bowl a perfect 300.
Still, bowling has made little headway toward becoming an Olympic sport and is not likely to.
In any event, as America’s capital goes into scandal overdrive and the country continues to go to hell in a handbasket, I wish the three remaining sports luck as they vie for a spot in the Olympics.
I will continue to follow their behind-the-scenes battles closely — as they offer a welcome respite from the sorry state that America’s people, economy and politics are in these days.
Tom Purcell is the author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” He is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist.