You’re standing at the 18th, putter in hand and lining up for the birdie that will seal the Olympic title.
You throw, hear the clattering of plastic on metal chain and watch your putter drop into the basket, the fans erupt and you’ve just taken home the gold medal!
What a feeling that would be! Unfortunately, disc golf isn’t yet in the Olympics, but will it ever be?
Disc golf will potentially gain admission to the summer Olympics as part of a selection of wider frisbee sports in the next decade. The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) is recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as a sport and can put itself forward for inclusion in the games.
So there is plenty of hope at the end of the tunnel. Whilst disc golf is now a recognized sport by the IOC, you would be surprised how many sports aren’t, there are still further hurdles which have to be overcome before a sport can make it to the Olympics.
How does a sport get into the Olympics?
The process for being accepted as an Olympic sport is a long and tedious one, below I’ve laid out the steps a sport needs to take to find itself at an Olympic games.
First the sport must be recognised by the International Olympic Committee. Once a sport is recognised it becomes part of the recognized federations list (you can see the full list here). These are the sports eligible for inclusion in the games. For a sport to be recognized on this list it generally requires an international (non-government) body which oversees the sport. That’s why you may be surprised to see sports like Darts not represented after its years of infighting and rival governing bodies despite having more players globally.
Second, the sport must then enforce rules set out by the Olympic charter. These include rules around anti-doping, and stipulating that tests have to be carried out not just at tournaments but also regularly through the year for professional participants.
Now that a sport is recognized by the IOC, has implemented the correct rules the governing body must make an application to the to the IOC for the sport to be included in the Olympic program.
There are many factors the IOC will consider when looking at an application, some of the key items are:
- Participation – The sport must be played by men across 75 or more countries on four or more continents, the sport must also be played by women in at least 40 countries and on at least 3 continents.
- Value and appeal – The sport must contribute to the value and appeal of the Olympics. This is to help push the Olympics as a popular and modern event and keep it popular for years to come.
Looking at these individually, at the time of publication the WFDF indicates that disc golf is currently played in 45 registered countries around the globe. Whilst this is very impressive it doesn’t meet the Olympic requirement and therefore will struggle to be admitted to the games based on participation.
However, in my opinion, I think that disc golf does help push the value and appeal of the Olympics. Disc sports are growing in popularity and are a relatively new phenomenon which would bring further interest to the games.
How far away is disc golf from making it to the Olympics?
Based on what we’ve just learnt about how sports are admitted to the games, it is likely that disc golf is still someway off being a regular in the Olympic calendar.
The WFDF and wider disc sports are now recognised as a sporting federation but that still leaves a few hurdles to go.
The WFDF will need to invest significant resources and time into generating a more international following for all disc sports. By doing that and increasing its reach the IOC will eventually be left with no choice but to include disc golf and other frisbee disciplines into the summer calendar.
Will we see disc golf at the Los Angeles 2028 games?
With Los Angeles 2028 around the corner, and disc golf being very popular in the US, is there a chance that the IOC could help disc golf (along with other disc sports) into the Olympics?
I’m not sure how flexible the IOC is on these matters but it would appear to me that it would be in the interests of the committee to permit some very heavy US centred sports which are on the fringes of the Olympics, disc sports and possibly darts(?), to be given a one-off entry into the calendar. This would certainly give them the foot in the door, but perhaps more importantly would reach areas of the sporting society that the Olympics currently doesn’t reach. Historically countries that have hosted Olympic games have performed very well in their Olympic year and then for a number of subsequent years which would be a big benefit for the US over the next few decades.
Being admitted into the Olympics also doesn’t guarantee continued inclusion, some very famous other sports which used to be in the Olympics have fallen by the wayside over time and would struggle to get back in, common examples are cricket, very popular in most ex-colonial countries from the UK, and tug of war, another famous historic event which hasn’t been on the Olympic calendar since 1920!
Hopefully this has cleared up some of the common questions around Olympic inclusion and why disc golf currently isn’t part of the Olympic calendar, for now, all we can do while we wait for inclusion is to keep playing and spreading the word about disc golf. Happy throwing!