Thousands of athletes from all over the globe compete every two years in the Olympics, summer or winter. In a wide array of sports, they represent their countries to discover who is the best — and who will bring home the gold.
The criteria for what it takes to be the best, however, are ever-changing.
To see what catches on with audiences, sports within the Olympics are often changing. In 2020, for example, we’ll see the additions of baseball, softball, surfing, skateboarding and karate — for now.
More changes will be made to both the summer and winter Olympics in the future.
With that spirit in mind, here’s a look at five sports the International Olympic Committee should consider adding to the games.
1.) Bandy. If you like hockey, you probably want bandy in the Olympics, too. The sport features 11 players on each side of an outdoor rink trying to score goals; but instead of a puck, the players use a small rubber ball. The net is significantly larger than in ice hockey (11 feet wide and 7 feet tall, compared to 6 feet wide by 4 feet high), and that leads to more scoring opportunities.
Field sizes vary, too, but bandy fields are closer in size to football fields than hockey rinks.
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Sixteen countries competed in the 2018 Bandy World Championship this year — that’s two more countries than competed in ice hockey at the 2018 Olympics (14).
Bandy would add diversity to the winter games, which have been dominated by skiing and skiing variants in recent years, and hockey fans would get a unique twist on an already popular sport. It was played at the 1952 winter games, but back then, only three teams participated. Now, it’s popular enough around the world to attract more participants.
2.) MMA. Mixed martial arts is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports — evidenced by the rise of the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) into a multibillion-dollar corporation within a 25-year span. While boxing is on the decline, MMA fighting continues to grow. Perhaps its top amateur athletes from across the globe could demonstrate who among them are the best pound-for-pound fighters in the next Olympic games.
In order to succeed in MMA, fighters must be well-rounded in many forms of fighting (boxing, jiujitsu, judo, wrestling, etc.). If UFC bouts on FOX can garner over 2 million viewers per show, ratings would likely not be an issue when it comes to the Olympics.
3.) Beach soccer. Since beach volleyball is already an Olympic sport, why not add a “beach” version of the most popular sport in the world? FIFA (The Fédération Internationale de Football Association) already has a Beach Soccer World Cup, and regular soccer is immensely popular at the Olympics; it seems a natural fit.
The sport may even have more appeal to Americans than does traditional soccer, as it’s a higher-scoring affair. During the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in 2017, an average of 8.3 goals were scored per game.
In contrast, the last soccer FIFA World Cup (2014) averaged just 2.7 goals per game.
4.) Competitive snowball fighting. Think we’re kidding? While not yet particularly popular on the world stage, annual competitive snowball tournaments occur in Japan, Finland, Norway, Australia, Canada, and the United States (in Alaska).
Since the practice originates in Japan, the sport is called Yukigassen.
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Currently, the winter Olympics has just 15 sports compared to 33 in the summer games. Snowball fighting would help add depth to what tends to be a lighter Olympics. The summer games considered adding dodgeball at one point, so why should the winter Olympics not be open to this game?
Competitors would need better accuracy to throw the smaller ball, better reflexes to avoid the lighter balls coming in at a higher velocity, and toughness to endure the cold weather; and they would have to create snowballs quickly instead of just grabbing a dodgeball.
5.) Squash. This sport has been under consideration for the Olympics for the past three summer games cycles, but each time it’s been rejected, The Daily Mail reported.
For those not familiar with the sport, squash is most similar to tennis if that game were played against a wall and not across a net.
It requires swift thinking and agility, and while it might not be the most popular sport around, it has global appeal. There are over 20 million squash players in over 185 countries around the world, according to USSquash.com.
Most likely it would end up a summer sport (there’s fortunately no ice and snow involved!), but it can be played year-round like any other indoor sport.
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.