Bowling In The Olympics

By Michael Cousins

In recent years, there has been much discussion about bowling and the Olympics. Should bowling be a part of the Olympics? Does it meet the criteria? When – if ever – will it be accepted?

The opinions on this matter vary from bowler-to-bowler. There are those that feel strongly that bowling should, 100%, be in the Olympics, as there are many “sports” – I use that term loosely – that should not be in there.

Others would argue that bowling does not meet the criteria it takes to become an Olympic sport, as there are simply too many outside variables that go into the outcome of an event.

But who’s right? Is there a strong argument to be made for bowling? Or are we simply wasting our breath?

The main argument for bowling is simple: with “sports” like trampoline, handball, and the equestrian events, how can bowling not be in? There is little doubt in my mind – and in many others’ minds – that bowling is far more interesting and competitive than that of the aforementioned sports. So why, then, is bowling not a part of the Olympic Games?

One issue – and it’s a big issue – are all of the outside variables that are incontrovertibly a part of our game, topography being perhaps the biggest issue. Pair-to-pair, bowling will always be different.

It is the nature of the sport. Pair-to-pair, lane-to-lane, each lane surface has its own characteristics. Therefore, as a result, there is virtually no chance of creating a truly level playing field.

Look at other sports, for example. Michael Phelps has never won a gold medal because he had the best cross. He has never led qualifying because he matched up better than everyone else. That just isn’t the way swimming – and other sports, for that matter – is. The fastest man or woman in the pool will always win that particular race. However, in bowling, the best bowler doesn’t always win. It is just the way that our sport is.

An argument could be made that all of the variables that we face in our sport are actually what make our sport great. It is due to said variables that our game – at least at the competitive level – is interesting and challenging. But it is because of these same variables, some argue, that our sport is being kept off of the big stage.

I personally understand both sides of the argument. I for one would love to see bowling in the Olympics. I think that it would be a huge step in the right direction for our sport. It would bring a new level of prestige that our sport, in recent years, has been lacking.

That being said, I totally get where the opposition is coming from. I don’t know how you create a truly level and equal playing surface in our sport. That just isn’t the way our sport is played. It never has been and never will be. Lanes break down differently depending on topography and the bowlers that are on that pair. That is the nature of our sport.

Let’s assume for a second that topography wouldn’t be an issue. Let’s assume that – for the sake of this argument – the Olympic Committee builds a new venue, just for the event, with all new lanes and perfect, and I mean perfect, installs. You still have to take into account that bowlers, depending on their styles (rev rate, ball speed, lane play strategies, etc.) will break down every pair differently.

In swimming, every athlete swims in the same pool. In gymnastics, all gymnasts compete on the same obstacles. In basketball, both teams are playing on the same court, shooting at the same hoops, with the same ball.

There is simply no way to create that level of parity in our sport. You certainly couldn’t hold the entire event on one pair of lanes. That just isn’t feasible. So what then is the answer?

My hope is that the naysayers recognize, understand, and embrace the outside variables for what they are: challenges that our competitors must overcome to find success. Attempting to eliminate them is futile.

Regardless of where you stand on the argument, I am certain that we can all agree that getting bowling into the Olympics is the next big step our sport needs to take. It would be huge for bowling on a competitive level. It would bring a new level of noteriety and acceptance to our sport. Noteriety and acceptance that our sport has never gotten.

What is your take on bowling and the Olympics? What do you think the chances are of bowling becoming an Olympic sport sooner rather than later? Do you feel that it is deserving? Let us know!

One thought on “Bowling In The Olympics

  1. Michael Herz says:

    Bowling may not be a sport in “the Olympics”, but it is a sport in the “Maccabi Games” which is essentially the Jewish Olympics. I had the privilege of participating in the European Maccabi Games in the summer of 2011 which took place in Vienna, Austria. There were not too many teams, but England, Sweden and the U.S. fielded the most competitive, full teams. We bowled 7 games (including practice) per day for 7 days (excluding Saturday, the Sabbath) and then bowled 15 games the last day (Masters head-to-head round). We started with Singles, then Doubles, then Trios, then 4-person teams, all bowling 6-game sets with a brief intermission half-way through. We bowled on a sport shot which meant that there was a premium in hitting your target with the right amount of revs and ball speed. I came away with two Gold Medals (Trios and Team) and a lifetime of memories, and not a single bowler complained about the unfairness or lack of uniformity of conditions on the lanes.

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