Watching people do things that I could only do in imagination is the lure of the Olympic Games. There is no doubt in the athletes’ abilities, but I have wondered whether some events are truly “sport”. One wary of labels and their confounds may fume over this thought. But the fabrics of sport and art are often weaved together, dampening their objectivity and certainty. Olympic disciplines like ice dance and rhythmic gymnastics need great strength and grace, though some will argue its status as a sport.
Athletes have long petitioned the inclusion of different sports in the Games. This will not change since tastes always will. The upcoming Olympics will feature five new sports, including surfing and skateboarding, which already parallel some sports established in the Winter Games. These are exciting additions, provoking me to wonder what else could be an Olympic Sport. Should there be more stringent criteria in sport inclusion, or should criteria be tempered by the popularity of a sport?
Or is the problem the notion of sport itself? There is a natural inclination to associate sport with athletic ability, though the International Olympic Committee has questionably ‘acknowledged’ certain events as sports. One that comes to mind is chess, which should just remain there as a sport. (Note that it is not an Olympic event, just ‘recognized’ as a sport) I do not dispute the intellectual prowess needed for chess success, but it is far removed from the physical power conventional to the Olympic Games.
Chess, along with other events and sports, already have international competitions in place, so why is there a need for Olympic eligibility? The Olympic status may be what all these disciplines vie for; the prestige of the Olympics, no matter how irrelevant to some, is an enduring soft pride and one many want to capture. Is this Olympic prestige exclusive to physical sports? And when does art interfere with the integrity of sport, if at all?
Probably whenever you lose medals over it.