Why is the oldest team sport in the world missing from the Olympics?


Polo is one of the world’s oldest team sports, but has been missing from inclusion in the Olympics since the games resumed after the second world war in London in 1948.

The first modern Olympic equestrian medals were not awarded to dressage riders, eveners or even showjumpers. They were presented to polo players, on June 2 1900, when a joint British/US team took gold. Those Olympic Games, held in Paris, were the first to include horse sports, and polo was a prominent feature for another four Olympics, which begs the question – why was it then removed and not featured ever since?

The Federation of International Polo (FIP) was set up in the 1980s with a main goal of reintroducing the sport of polo to the Olympic Games. It has been campaigning for some years to persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reintroduce the sport.

To become an Olympic sport, there are a number of steps needed to be taken. A sport must be administered by an international federation, not just national governing bodies. In 1996, the IOC voted to make polo a “recognised sport” again, which meant it could then be included. But 17 years later and still no success, what chance does polo have of getting back to the Olympic Games?

When the Financial Times spoke with David Woodd, Chief Executive of the Hurlingham Polo Association, he said: “Never say never – but I think it’s pretty remote.”

He went on to say: “My understanding is that the IOC is trying to reduce equine involvement, not increase it.”

After the recent success of the equestrian teams at last year’s London Olympic Games, Olympic Equestrianism should be safe at least for the moment. Polo’s negative image of being an elitist and expensive sport to stage however, are not going to help boost its campaign to the Olympics.

The next chance it has for Olympic inclusion is in 2020, as although rugby and golf joined the roster for Brazil 2016 polo was not considered even though it has a strong and long tradition there.

What do you think? Should polo return to the Olympics? What other sports should be included in the Olympics?




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