Shaun White goes big at the Winter X Games. Credit: Gabriel Christus/ESPN Images.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced yesterday, July 4, 2011 that is will be including the following additional sports to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games including ski slopestyle men’s and women’s, snowboard slopestyle men’s and women’s, and snowboard parallel special slalom, men’s and women’s. While this news is great for the athletes and fans of these disciplines, it also shows that the IOC is continuing to try and make the Olympics relevant to today’s youth culture.
As we’ve covered many times before, the IOC has often come across as an ancient committee of irrelevant decision makers. Not that we need to get into the ongoing debate of snowboarding in the Olympics and qualification procedures set out by the IOC, but they do often make questionable decisions (along with the FIS). The most recent and obvious one was when they announced qualifying dates for snowboarding slopestyle which was the same as the Dew Tour, meaning that the top riders would be at the Dew Tour, not at some FIS-sanctioned event in Europe.
Their press releases also continue to sound incredibly outdate such as when they announced that they would be using “social media” to engage with their audience and gain feedback. Late to the game of course, but at least now they are doing it. But are they listening is another question all together.
In April of this year, the IOC announced the addition of ski halfpipe men’s and women’s, figure skating team even, a luge team relay, and women’s ski jumping which had long been rallying to be included and even sued the IOC for discrimination before the Vancouver Games, and lost.
According to IOC President Jacques Rogge, “We are very pleased with the addition of ski and snowboard slopestyle and snowboard special slalom in the Olympic Winter Games program. Such events provide great entertainment for the spectators and add further youthful appeal to our already action-packed lineup of Olympic winter sports. We look forward to welcoming all the athletes to Sochi in 2014.”
It bears repeating also that entertainment value, as Mr. Rogge points out, is becoming ever-more important to the Olympics. When TV ratings sored thanks to Shaun White winning snowboarding halfpipe, it was clear to the IOC and NBC and others reaping the benefits of viewership and advertising sales, that adding more snowboarding would be a good thing -especially if someone with mass appeal like Shaun White is able to pull-off a double gold medal performance. The only thing they didn’t consider or seem to understand were the conflicting dates of slopestyle qualifications for the top snowboarders. The IOC doesn’t look past FIS-sanctioned events unfortunately.
Finally, in addition to yesterday’s announcement about slopestyle, there was a shortlist of sports that are now being considered for 2020 Olympics including baseball, karate, roller sports, softball, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard, and wushu. We’re not quite sure what they mean by “roller sports” but there have been discussions about skateboarding entering into the Olympics. Let’s just hope they don’t do what they did with snowboarding by stuffing it under the umbrella of a skiing federation, and put skateboarding under the umbrella of cycling or something wacked because then all sorts of hate will bubble to the surface again for the antiquated IOC.
Meanwhile, the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games will take place in Innsbruck, Austria from January 13-22, 2012.