The Problem is not Breakdancing
KUDOS provides lots of dance academies and clubs with kit and it is a genuinely fantastic and positive pursuit, and means of keeping fit. Dance in its various forms is all over our TV screens and it’s easy to see why – it’s cool, it’s fun to watch and its benefits are numerous.
In its early incarnations, dance was predominantly thought of as art – performance art. If, centuries ago, there was any debate it would have been dance as art versus entertainment. But nothing in life stays the same, and as its various forms have evolved and it has grown in popularity and accessibility, there can be little doubt of its validity as a sport. After all, the OED’s definition of sport is: ‘an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment’.
Dance clearly ticks all of those boxes. In any case, sport and art are not mutually exclusive, and sport at its best has always had elements of artistry. Witness Zinedine Zidane pirouetting around a football field with his beguiling balletic grace, or ‘the Rembrandt of batting‘, the exquisite former England batsman David Gower.
But the main question for most people doesn’t seek to disparage breakdancing at all – it is simply: why on earth are traditional and popular sports like netball and squash continually overlooked for Olympic inclusion?
Why Not Netball?
Oddly, netball is recognised as an Olympic sport – it’s just not played at the Olympics. What the netball community finds so frustrating is the fact there’s never really been any reason given for its exclusion.
It achieved official Olympic recognition in 1995, and inclusion at the Games was widely expected to follow. The official recognition opened up sources and channels of funds the like of which the sport of netball had not previously had access to. But it is still yet to be included in the list of contested sports, and in an increasingly equal sporting world, it remains a mystery to many.
Netball is telegenic and played in over 80 countries. One theory is that the USA’s indifference to netball is the main factor. Certainly the fact netball is largely absent in the US doesn’t help, and netball’s lack of presence in two other Olympic giants – China and Russia – is surely another problem. While each of those three nations boast a rich sporting heritage, it seems to us as though their Olympic influence is perhaps too great.
Why Not Squash?
In England alone, some 1.2 million people play squash every year. It is one of the most aerobically intense and demanding sports around, requiring stamina, speed, strength, balance and agility, and by most criteria it surely has a strong case for inclusion.
Squash at the Olympics would represent the sport’s pinnacle, with everybody concerned with the sport desperate for the reward of Olympic inclusion – so it is difficult to accept the snub when you see golf – another sport we love – included at the 2016 Olympics when many of the top players simply couldn’t be bothered with it. The likes of Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and others all pulled out, because, put simply, golf just doesn’t need the Olympic Games. It thrives on its own significant traditions, something the Olympics have never really a been part of. So what more does squash need to do?
Huge Scope for Netball and Squash
Both netball and squash, while popular and widely-played at grassroots level, would benefit hugely from the exposure Olympic inclusion would bring. The fact they’ve soldiered on so successfully at grassroots level without Olympic visibility speaks volumes for what both sports have to offer, but the sky really could be the limit and it’s surely time the IOC reconsidered.
Squash and netball’s omission is not a new thing – they’ve been overlooked for years and years. The average age of IOC committee members – mostly men – is 63, and so you could argue, for including breakdancing, they deserve credit for thinking outside the box in surprisingly progressive ways. But sporting governing bodies and committees are all too often made up of older men who’ve long outstayed their welcome – hello the Football Association! – and perhaps a shake up in terms of the committee’s diversity and average age could bring about some fresh thinking.
Good luck to breakdancing!
Breakdancing – or ‘breaking’ as its community prefers to call it – now looks certain to be included and, frankly, it will likely make for great viewing. It’s typically set to hip-hop and funk, and it should be a vibrant, energising and exciting spectacle. Good luck to all concerned, but the constant snubs delivered to netball and squash remain difficult to explain and difficult for the respective communities to swallow. Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page.
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