Some French flair was added this week to the list of new sports proposed by 2024 Olympics organisers in Paris.
The clincher in their official application to the IOC did not rest with their choice of surfing, skateboarding or sports climbing. These will already have made their debut in Tokyo next year.
The fourth “sport” caught my eye: breakdancing. After years of campaigning, even squash didn’t crack the nod, nor billiard sports nor chess.
Spare a thought for karate too. The martial art debuts in the country of its origin in Tokyo next year, but is not considered for Paris.
Their list of new sports is based on a Parisian penchant for what you might call French flair.
The head of the 2024 organising committee, Tony Estanguet, a three-time Olympic canoeing champion, alluded to this at the announcement.
He said the inclusions would make the Olympics “more urban” and “more artistic”. His team would “present the IOC with four sports that are as creative as spectacular, geared towards youth and completely in line with our vision. They reflect perfectly Paris 2024’s identity.”
The decision is based on the massive success of breakdancing at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires last year, with sell-out crowds at not just the breakdancing, but at other events like sport climbing, freestyle BMX and 3v3 basketball.
Russian youngster Sergei Chernyshev, nicknamed BBoy Bumblebee, took the gold medal in the boys’ breakdancing, winning in a man-on-man sudden death format that will be adopted in France, while Japan’s Ramu Kawai took gold in the girls.
BBC Olympics reporter Nick Hope said this week that he was highly sceptical when sports “with little history or experience” were “thrown into the Youth Olympics by the IOC”, but has changed his mind, and now sees how it perfectly fits the IOC’s strategic plan for youth appeal.
After the announcement by Estanguet, there was joy in surfing circles. Phew! The International Surfing Association (ISA) must have thought, ‘We’re still cool!’
The ISA said they were “excited” and “grateful”, and that it was an opportunity to cement surfing’s long-term Olympic inclusion (and probably the rapid deployment of expensive wave pools all over the world).
There was, of course, the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth. The World Squash Federation was upset. The World Karate Federation was “deeply saddened”.
Behind the scenes, there must have been consternation at the “breaking” news. These are established sports with a history that goes back almost 200 years (squash), and centuries (karate).
It would not be expensive or difficult to include them. Instead, we have breakdancing, that explosively energetic and contortionist mix of martial art, gymnastics and dancing that spread across the world from the streets of the Big Apple.
You have to say that it’s an innovative move, but the purists must be choking on their brussels sprouts for sure.@spike_wavescape