As if the Olympic Games didn’t have enough problems already. Between nations being awarded hosting gigs and not being able to afford the cost of new facilities and alligators trying to eat some of the competitors, you’d think that the IOC might want to take a more mellow approach going forward. But according to one recent report, when the games come to Paris in 2024 you’ll probably be seeing a new event. Breakdancing. Oh, excuse me… we’re not supposed to call it that anymore. It’s just “breaking.” (LA Times)
Outsiders might scoff, but the International Olympic Committee has recognized breaking as a high-level competitive sport with a network of contests held worldwide. Earlier this year, organizers of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris proposed adding it to their program, citing an “unmissable opportunity” to attract young fans.
The possibility causes Yuri to grin, thinking about validation in the form of gold medals and television coverage. The 28-year-old from Brazil says: “Maybe a lot of people are going to look at us in a better way…”
The news out of Paris took Mark Dyreson by surprise. Breaking in the Summer Games? It seemed insane to the Penn State professor who studies Olympic history.
“Then,” he says, “I thought about synchronized swimming.”
The IOC has a history of adding unconventional events in an effort to stay relevant and attract a young demographic.
I’m already getting a headache. It’s not as if I generally watch the Olympics anyway (except when curling is on during the winter games), so I suppose it’s none of my business. But it just seems as if the IOC is going out of their way to rush further and further away from the roots of the games.
To be clear, I have nothing for or against breakdancing as an artform or hobby. I’ve never attempted it myself, and if I tried it at my age I would likely be in the hospital for months, but for those who enjoy it, I wish you nothing but the best. The point here is that it’s not a competitive sport in the fashion of the games. It’s vigorously athletic to be sure and you no doubt have to be in good shape to attempt it. But that doesn’t address the underlying question.
I feel no differently about breakdancing in the Olympics than I do about figure skating or that gymnastics event where they run around carrying sticks with ribbons tied to them. All beautiful. All requiring athletic skill and grace. And not one of them qualifies as a competitive activity where you can determine a clear winner and loser. Any event that relies on the eyeballs and opinions of a collection of human beings assigning a score to your performance is not a competitive sport
Many of you probably aren’t old enough to remember this, but back when I was young the Olympics were constantly marred by what became derisively known as the East German Judge syndrome. That’s because there was always that one judge from East Germany who would award a very high score to any athlete from one of the communist nations, and a shockingly low score to the American and the other western countries. It became such a running joke that they lampooned it on Saturday Night Live multiple times.
Real sports are easy to spot. In a race of any kind, someone will cross the finish line first. The next person after them is the first loser. In hockey, one team will put the puck into the net more times than the other. Somebody will lift the greatest amount of weight. You have winners and losers. But as soon as you bring in performance artists and judges, that entire premise goes out the window and you’re left with the equivalent of a beauty contest. So have your breakdancing in the Olympics if that’s what floats your boat, but it’s not a competitive sport.