Monday, August 11, 2008

Racquetball in the Olympics?

Assuming that you aren't living under a rock, and if you're reading this on-line, then that's probably unlikely - though mobile technology has made great strides, so... - you're likely aware that this little thing called the Olympic Games is going on in Beijing, China.

Yes, Virginia, it's that time of the quadrennial. The time athletes spend the rest of the quadrennial preparing for.

Also assuming that you're a fan of racquetball, and people reading something called "The Racquetball Blog" probably are, then you may be thinking to yourself "why isn't racquetball in the Olympics?" or "how can we get racquetball into the Olympics?" Short answers to those questions are (i) because not enough people play racquetball, and (ii) get more people playing racquetball, specifically more people playing in more countries.

Understand that at an international level, sport is political. If you're trying to get your sport into a multi-sport event, such as the Olympics, people are going to ask "who plays the sport?" or "where is it played?" Anyone looking at racquetball would answer "North America" and "North Americans."

That's a problem, because if there's a global vote on whether your sport gets in an event and you can't count on much support outside of one continent, which doesn't have many countries on it, then you're going to have a difficult time winning that vote. Considering it from the viewpoint of the Olympic rings, racquetball only has one of those rings covered. That's not enough.

Moreover, consider that one country really dominates racquetball competitions. We'd be surprised if any Olympic sport has been dominated in, say, the last decade by one country in the way that racquetball has been dominated by the USA. Such domination makes it difficult to argue that racquetball is an international sport.

Furthermore, that the USA is the dominant racquetball country makes it worse, because no one outside the United States wants to see Americans get more Olympic medals. Really. They don't. It's nothing personal, just one of those "don't you people have enough already?" kind of things.

If racquetball was in the Olympics, that would mean probably at least four more American medals - assuming four events (men's and women's singles and doubles competitions) - and there could easily be more. Four might be enough to make a difference in medal totals between China and the USA at the end of this Olympics. If so, how do you think China would feel about racquetball being in the Games?

If you're an American, you may think this is out of line. But consider that after Beijing the Olympics is going to drop two sports for the 2012 Games in London. Those sports are baseball and softball, both American games - primarily.

The United States for all of its international influence really hasn't exported its games very well. Britain, which was a colonial power, took its games of football (that's soccer to you, Yankee), cricket, rugby and squash around the world, such that those games are generally more popular than any American game.

Cricket and rugby are both played on several continents, and their world cups are huge events involving multiple nations, unlike say baseball's World Series. It's a similar story with squash, and with the 2012 Olympics in London, don't be surprised if squash is included, which would give it an advantage over racquetball, even in North America. Squash is played in many more countries than racquetball and there is no dominant squash nation, as there is in racquetball.

Racquetball is a small sport, and the dream of all small sports is to be big sports. The main claim to being a big sport is being in the Olympics. It's such a big deal, that even sports that are big - like golf - want in.

The International Racquetball Federation has done a great job getting racquetball in the World Games for 2009, and racquetball will likely be back in the Pan American Games in 2011, when the event will be in Mexico. But consider that for the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro racquetball was dropped, because the local committee didn't want to include it (Brazil is perhaps the only country in the Americas where racquetball is not played), and you can understand how hard it is to get a small sport into a multi-sport event.

Thus, while we'd love to see racquetball in the Olympics, and certainly think it's as deserving as many sports that are already included, we're pessimistic about the likelihood of seeing it happen any time soon.

Of course, we'd be happy to be wrong about this. The Bolivian break through at the World Championships was tremendous, because it was the first time a team from a South American nation finished in the top three overall. That's the kind of result racquetball needs if it's going to be a truly international sport.

5 comments:

Racquetball Factory said...

Another problem that puts Racquetball at a disadvantage to, say, badminton, is the court construction. All that is required for the badminton court is the floor and the net. Fencing just requires a flat area, and so on.

Racquetball requires constructing an entire box. And consider that to run a world size event you would need quite a few courts.

Building a whole facility for one fledgling event is not something the host nation would jump at.

I firmly believe that someday it will make the Olympic games, it may be a long way off and as you elude to it may be on the coattails of squash.

yankeeriscile said...

i do agree building a multi-court permanent structure to house a racquetball tournament would be quite an undertaking for an Olympic city if they didnt have a facility already. however with the advent of modern, mobile, temporary all-glass courts used in todays highest level tournaments, the cost would actually be far less than alot of the building that is required by sports in the Olympics today.

-t riscile
Atlanta, GA

yankeeriscile said...

i agree costruction of a racquetball facility is certainly higher than the building costs of a flat area needed for badminton. the advent of modern, mobile, temporary all glass courts that are used in the highest level tournaments of today actually cost less than a lot of the building going on for current Olympic sports. additionally, if by chance the Olympics were held in a city within the USA there is also the possibility there are facilities already in place.
thanks.

-t riscile
Atlanta, GA

Xia Yang said...

Xia Yang via Ben Croft
Options for this story
The Map of Racquetball to Olympics

A simple draft map I drew of Racquetball to Olympics –

1. Where is racquetball on the map now? Well, the map says in America.
2. Why is it not at Olympic yet? The map says in order to be at Olympic it must be played all over the world, oh, well, at least in many countries. Racquetball is not played in that many countries yet.
3. Where is our path? The map says, to start through America to other continents.
4. How can it get there? The map says, to accumulate bigger momentum (power) from where it is. Need passionate players and trainers to spread seeds.to those places and generate more passionate players who carry on this mission further and further.
5. What are challenges?
- Bigger population plays this sport, especially younger people.
-Access to the Sport, i.e. Court , how about courts at public parks?
-Attract bigger audience, how about make media likes us more, such as paint the wall the color the camera favors, I’m just saying….
….
6. How to overcome these challenges? ….. says everybody, …

I’ll keep drawing the map in my mind

Xia Yang said...

Xia Yang via Ben Croft
Options for this story
The Map of Racquetball to Olympics

A simple draft map I drew of Racquetball to Olympics –

1. Where is racquetball on the map now? Well, the map says in America.
2. Why is it not at Olympic yet? The map says in order to be at Olympic it must be played all over the world, oh, well, at least in many countries. Racquetball is not played in that many countries yet.
3. Where is our path? The map says, to start through America to other continents.
4. How can it get there? The map says, to accumulate bigger momentum (power) from where it is. Need passionate players and trainers to spread seeds.to those places and generate more passionate players who carry on this mission further and further.
5. What are challenges?
- Bigger population plays this sport, especially younger people.
-Access to the Sport, i.e. Court , how about courts at public parks?
-Attract bigger audience, how about make media likes us more, such as paint the wall the color the camera favors, I’m just saying….
….
6. How to overcome these challenges? ….. says everybody, …

I’ll keep drawing the map in my mind