Organizers from the Toyko Olympics just announced this week the five sports from a list of 26 that will be included in the 2020 games. The possibility that bowling would finally be included in the competition seemed far more likely since it had a made the shortlist of new sports under consideration for the competition, which included baseball/softball, karate, climbing, squash, surfing, roller sports and wushu- a Chinese martial art. However the Organizers of the Olympics announced their final decision this week, and unfortunately bowling did not make the cut.
Prior to the final decision being made, the organization had released a statement saying they base their decisions on sports that reinforce Olympic values while appealing to the youth and wouldn’t require building new facilities, as Tokyo organizers have been working on reducing costs of hosting the event. In accordance with this statement, it would appear that bowling had a strong case for inclusion.
While bowling is popular on a global spectrum and is recognized as the world’s number one participatory sport, bowling does not translate very well to TV, which organizers consider a major factor for rating and advertising purposes. In fact, bowling had been added as a demonstration sport in the 1988 Seoul Olympics Games. Unfortunately, only 20 nations competed and neither television nor the media covered the event.
So, what is holding bowling back from becoming an Olympic sport? Although for many years bowling has been the number one participatory sport, it is not a sport that is inexpensive or easily accessible to youngsters in third world countries to develop skill. Bowling requires expensive to construct and operate facilities. In fact, other than possibly golf, majority of Olympic sports are less expensive to pursue than bowling.
In addition, when golf was on the bid to be included in the 2016 games, endorsements from Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Annika Sorenstam surely had an effect on the International Olympic Committee’s decision to welcome the new event. Bowling, however, does not have the well-known influencers and endorsements to help its cause.
It is likely that should bowling become an Olympic sports, there would be new and restored interest in the game. If you love bowling as much as we do, then you are probably rooting for the inclusion of bowling one day in the Olympics.