The 2010 Olympic Games in BC, Canada, were a great showcase of world-class athletes, and again begged the question, when will lacrosse be added back to the Olympic line-up?
Field lacrosse was contested as a full medal sport at the 1904 and ‘08 Olympics and was a demonstration sport in 1928, ‘32 and ‘48. Since then, lacrosse has continued to expand.
In the US, no sport has grown faster at the high school level over the last 10 years. Lacrosse has also been the fastest growing sport at the NCAA level over the last six years, and the game’s taking off internationally.
Growing from just a four-team tournament in 1967, the World Field Lacrosse championships this year will feature 30 nations. In total, 36 countries are now members of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL), with emerging countries set to join on the list.
“We seem to be adding three to four countries every year now,” added Tom Hayes, who overseas development for FIL and is confident the sport can hit a critical milestone of 40 countries playing lacrosse by 2011. “The game is growing all over the world.”
So what will it take for the sport of field lacrosse to reach Olympic status again? The answer is likely another 14 years, as the process to gain Olympic status is a lengthy one.
In order to be considered for the Olympics, Hayes says a sport must first have 40 countries playing its game to join the Sport Accord. Only after being accepted to that Sport Accord, can a sport then apply to the International World Games Association (IWGA).
“These two organizations sort-of act as screening organizations before you can actually approach the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for consideration,” said Hayes. He noted the year 2024 is a realistic target for lacrosse to be included in the Olympic Games program.
“From the time you are admitted, it is a seven-year period before you can actually compete in the Olympic Games,” added Hayes. Golf and rugby sevens will debut at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games after being approved back in ’09 by the IOC Session.
Although the FIL hoped to have lacrosse in the Olympics as early as 2020 (by becoming members of the Sport Accord in 2011 and the IWGA in 2013), Patsy Dew, manager of the IWGA shared “the IWGA is not accepting any new applications from any sports and will not be making any changes in terms of membership for the 2013 World Games”.
“I’m quite optimistic lacrosse will be in the Olympics, it’s just a matter of when,” said Hayes. He added while the IOC used to require federations to have at least 75 countries competing in their sport, those restrictions have been relaxed.
Ski Cross, as an example, was approved by the IOC in ’06, just four years before they debuted at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, implied revenue potential and the interest of corporate media partners played a significant role in that IOC decision.
In an interview with Can West news services, Judge said: ”We’d heard that the television guys were asking, when they saw boarder cross, ‘Do they do this on skis too?’ When you hear that query coming from someone paying billions in revenue, you tend to listen to your customer.”
Moving forward the FIL will continue to focus what it can control, building the sport and its competitiveness level globally. The FIL World Field Lacrosse Championships – which like the Summer Olympics is held once every four years – is set to take place in England this July.
“We’re also dealing with the leadership of the IOC – ‘What’s their philosophy, are they going to concentrate more on individual sports as opposed to team sports?’,” concluded Tom Hayes. “But those are concerns we can’t worry about right now. We just have to do our job of developing and get more and more countries to play this exciting game.”
For more on FIL’s development programs, including out-reach clinics in in Africa and Asia, please visit filacrosse.com.An All-America at Simon Fraser and a decorated Jr. A player for Coquitlam, Kojima began covering lacrosse in 2003 and started working for Inside Lacrosse in 2007. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.laxfuj.com.
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