Bowling is enjoyed in dozens of countries around the world. Is bowling a sport in the Olympics?
Is Bowling A Sport In The Olympics?
No, bowling is not an Olympic Sport. What is the story with that?
Was Bowling Ever Considered For The Olympics
Yes! There have been several attempts to get bowling included in the Olympics over the past century. There was even one official trial run in 1988.
1936 Berlin Olympics
During the days prior to the opening ceremony at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, an international bowling tournament was held in Berlin. It should be noted that this tournament was not sponsored by or associated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in any way.
However, the purpose of scheduling the tournament to correspond with the Olympics was to allow Olympics officials from around the world to witness the tournament, with the hope that it would lead to the inclusion of bowling at the 1940 Olympics.
We don’t know how this might have turned out, because World War II intervened. The 1940 Olympics, scheduled for Tokyo, were canceled.
1979 The FIQ Was Acknowledged
The first baby step occurred in 1979, when the International Olympics Committee acknowledged the International Bowling Federation (at the time it was known as Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs) as the controlling organization for international bowling.
This enabled the IBF/FIQ to negotiate with (or lobby) the IOC about getting bowling included in the Olympics.
This led to a spark of hope in bowling fans that joining the Olympics was not far off.
1988 Bowling Demonstration At Seoul Olympics
One men’s match and one women’s match were held as demonstrations at the Seoul, Korea, Summer Olympics in 1988. This demonstration, while successfully completed, did nothing to encourage the IOC to include bowling in the official Olympics.
The 1988 Bowling Demonstration At Seoul Olympics resulted in nothing.
1991 U.S. Olympic Committee Recommendation
In 1991, the United States Olympic Committee recommended that bowling be added to the summer Olympics starting in 1996. The IOC vetoed this recommendation and nothing came of it.
1992 and 1996 Olympics
At the summer Olympics in both 1992 and 1996, bowling lanes were built in the Olympic Village.
However, bowling was not a demonstration sport in either of those years. It is widely reported online that bowling was a demonstration sport in 1996, but it was not.
While many athletes enjoyed some bowling in the Olympic Village in 1992 and 1996, this bowling did not, and was not intended to, lead to considering bowling for inclusion in the Olympics.
2013 IOC Voting On New Sports To Add To The Olympics
In 2013, the IOC considered dozens of new sports for possible addition to the Olympics in 2020 and 2024. While bowling was considered, it was eliminated in the first round of voting.
2015 IOC Voting On New Sports To Add To The Olympics
In June 2015, the IOC announced that bowling was included in the final 8 sports being considered once again for inclusion in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Bowling was eliminated in the very next round of voting in September 2015.
2019 IOC Paris Organizing Committee
In 2019, the IOC Paris Organizing Committee voted to not even include bowling on the list of potential sports to be added to the Olympics in 2024.
There has been no activity towards adding bowling to the Olympics since then.
Why Is Bowling Not An Olympic Sport
In a nutshell, there is nothing about bowling that meets the needs of the IOC. This in no way reflects poorly on bowling! It may reflect poorly on the IOC, depending on how you look at it.
The IOC Wants Young Viewers
The International Olympic Committee looks for sports that will attract viewers, especially young viewers, now and into the future. Young viewers (ages 18-49) are worth more to advertisers. Advertisers are willing to pay more to advertise on events with young audiences.
Therefore, most importantly, television networks will pay more to the IOC for the broadcast rights if the events attract a younger audience.
The IOC Wants A Growing Audience
Another great feature of young audiences is that they have many years ahead of them to keep watching the Olympics, as even younger people join them, growing the audience. Unfortunately, audiences for bowling skew to the old side. Over 70% of viewers of PBA events are over 50 years old. For comparison, over 70% of NBA viewers are under 50 years old.
This desire for a young, growing audience is why break dancing (called Breaking) and surfing have been added as Olympic sports recently. The pursuit of a young audience is probably the biggest reason that bowling has not been, and is unlikely to be, added to the Olympics anytime soon.
Global Access To Bowling Alleys
Another reason given by the IOC for not having bowling in the Olympics is that in many parts of the world, people simply do not have a local bowling alley.
Given that the construction of even a single bowling lane is expensive, requires ongoing maintenance costs, and a good deal of technical expertise to construct, the IOC has expressed concerns that bowling is simply not inclusive enough.
The International Paralympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee are separate committees, although members of the IPC are also on the IOC.
Paralympic games are held in the same years as the Olympic games.
The IPC and IOC work very closely together.
Therefore, it is not a surprise that bowling is not a Paralympic event.
While the Special Olympics is recognized by the IOC, the Special Olympics does not have a close working relationship with the IOC. The Special Olympics Committee is completely independent from the IOC.
Bowling was introduced in the Special Olympics in 1975 and is one of the most popular competitions they have. In 2011, over 200,000 people competed in a Special Olympics bowling event.
The IOC needs big, young, global audiences to be attracted to the television broadcasts of the Olympic games. Without this, advertisers will want to pay less to broadcasters for commercials, and therefore broadcasters will want to pay less to the IOC for the broadcasting rights.
Therefore, unless the bowling audience becomes significantly larger and younger, don’t expect bowling to be included in the Olympic games.