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Top Five Summer Olympic Sports That Don’t Belong

Roger Federer at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

Have you ever turned on Olympics coverage and thought to yourself, “What the hell is that sport doing in the Olympics?” I certainly have, but before I unveil the list, here are my general requirements for a sport to be in the Games:

  • Winning a medal should be a pinnacle of achievement in the sport. It doesn’t have to be the number one achievement, but it sure better mean something to most of the athletes competing and the countries involved. If the athletes don’t care, and the countries don’t care, then the people watching won’t care either. What do I mean? Quick – name a few tennis players that have won gold.
  • The word “synchronized” cannot appear in the name. Sorry, I just don’t see how synchronization “sports” exemplify the spirit of athletic competition. I’m not saying that it doesn’t take skill, I’m just questioning the legitimacy of these events as sports to be displayed on the world stage.
  • The sport needs to have a strong Olympic tradition. I am biased against letting new sports into the Olympics under most circumstances. If there’s no history, then Olympic success often isn’t a big deal to the athletes.

So without further ado, the list!

  1. Synchronized Swimming. Impressive, artistic, beautiful to watch. But an Olympic sport? I don’t think so.
  2. Synchronized Diving. Again, it violates the second rule. If you’re a world-class diver shouldn’t you be competing in the regular diving competitions?
  3. BMX Bicycling. When did this sneak in there? Keep the extreme sports in the X-Games.
  4. Baseball. No Olympic tradition, and nobody in the U.S. is watching. Maybe the athletes do care because a lot of these guys probably won’t make the majors, but if the U.S. wins a gold medal in baseball it’ll be a footnote in the sport. It probably won’t even be as big of a deal as winning the uninspiring World Baseball Classic. Not to worry, baseball is out in 2012.
  5. Tennis. Roger Federer has won 12 Grand Slam events in his career and might be the best tennis player ever. But years from now, nobody will remember if he won Olympic gold.

Sports that you might think should be on the list but aren’t:

  • Beach Volleyball. Yeah so they’re not actually at the beach. It has no Olympic tradition. And it just doesn’t seem right. But the athletes play hard and it is damn fun to watch.
  • Men’s Basketball. Until recently, most of the best U.S. players didn’t even want to play. Winning a gold medal isn’t nearly as important to the players as winning an NBA championship. But it’s not all about the U.S. It’s a huge deal to almost every player in every other country. Just ask Yao Ming.
  • Softball. Ok, no tradition, and it should be on the list because baseball is there. But softball is different. There isn’t a strong professional league for softball, so there’s no World Series or World Baseball Classic equivalent. It is a big deal to the players.


1 Ghostrider { 11.30.-1 at 12:00 am }

So very true!! There is one sport that I just do not get and you did not list, it is water polo. What is that sport? I have tried to watch to find out but fall asleep so never know who wins….

And yes I agree with the top 5. Tennis?? Don't they have Wembeldon (ms) and win cars?

I thought the Olympics were for Track & Field, Gymnastics, and Swimming. All sports that do not have a Super Bowl or World Series. One good thing is Baseball and Softball are seeing the Olympic page for the last year. The synchronized events are they considered a team sport? Maybe not.. But who really cares if two people can dive exactly alike.. not me.

I do know they have allowed some sports in to allow countries that do not have competitors that do Track & Field, Swimming or Gymnastics. I guess that is ok they are helping to unite the world… kinda.

I support our teams no matter what they play and my hat is off to them for getting to participate in something I could never get to.

2 AJ { 11.30.-1 at 12:00 am }


While I agree with you that synchronized diving is necessarily the most exciting thing to watch, diving off 30 foot platform, pulling off a few twists and landing in the water without breaking your back, let alone without a big splash doesnt sound like a walk in the park. Oh and to do this in sync with another person who doesn't happen to be a telekinetically connected long last vanishing twin? I don't think neither you nor I know, exactly, how difficult it is. The fact that

you see olympic level athletes, fall out of sync at times, tells you that there is more to it that what meets the eye.

Let me tell you a little story about the 1996 games Agassi won the gold, Brugera won silver and lo and behold, Leander Paes won an Olympic medal for india after almost four decades!!! Stuff like that inspires youngins. Paes went on to become a little bit of a celebrity and heck he even turned out to be a pretty good doubles player in the international cicruit.

Lastly, I have no idea why you would be opposed to letting new sports to enter the fold? Every sport starts some place right? While the athletes may get their 15sec on the camera and be quickly forgotten, the sport in itself benefits immensely from the exposure and money. When a sport goes Olympic, nations spend more money on programs, across the globe, and it gives a chance for their fringe sport into the mainstream. Dont tell me you didn't dig snowboard cross.

3 msg { 11.30.-1 at 12:00 am }

AJ, let me address your first point. I'm not saying synchonized is easy, or that it's "a walk in the park", I'm making the point that it's not enough of a spirited athletic competition to be in the freakin Summer Olympics! Diving is. Synchonized diving is not.

Secondly, that's great that this Paes person won a medal. Of course that inspires the young ones. But I'm sure India would be going crazy if somebody won a medal in, oh I don't know, air rifle shooting. Wait, that actually happened. So it could have been any sport. And you think people were excited about Paes winning a medal in the Olympics? What if he won Wimbledon? The country would be shut down for a month.

Lastly, I said I'm "biased against" new sports "under most circumstances." I think an Olympic tradition is important, but it's not essential. That's why beach volleyball didn't make my list.

4 Dale { 08.16.08 at 12:01 am }

I think you’re wrong about beach volleyball. Playing hard doesn’t even make it a sport. People don’t play at track and field or at swimming. You should expand your definition to include any activity that is described by the word “play”.

It’s not just that beach volleyball is dull, it’s that it’s offensive that a California beach activity even became an Olympic sport. I’d rather stab my eyes with hot pokers than watch beach volleyball, or at least be forced to watch Olympic Badminton instead.

5 Sporting Good { 11.30.-1 at 12:00 am }

It's a big political/power game now? Why oh why would you have golf introduced at the Olympic Games? Some other ridiculous sports at the Games include Badminton, Table tennis, beach volleyball (slow and boring), equestrian, sailing, modern pentathlon, shooting (just an excuse to have fat unathletic middleaged men at the games), synchronized swimming, rugby 7s and now GOLF! Also I think we could do without at least half of the swimming events. If an athlete is winning 8 medals in 6 days then there is something wrong there.

Best sports at the games – AThletics anything, weightlifting, fencing, handball and its slower cousin waterpolo….

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