An English gaming company has recently revived the idea that poker should be an official sport for Olympic competition, but admits that there are other sports which have much better grounds for admission than poker.
On December 27th, the U.K. gaming company CircusCasino.com announced that, after an aggressive internet campaign, it is trying to have poker added as an exhibition sport for the 2012 London Summer Olympics and achieve full medal status in time for the 2016 Summer Olympics, which will be held in either Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, or Tokyo. The action came after an announcement in September by the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority that poker could be advertised as a sport. Peter Nolan at CircusCasino.com said, “Poker’s appeal is global. It transcends gender and age and is the fastest-growing sport in the world. It’s ripe for Olympic recognition.”
However, Nolan admits that there are many other sports seeking recognition or reinstatement which have much better chances of being adopted. Both men’s baseball and women’s softball, which were eliminated from Olympic competition after the most recent contests in Beijing, are thought to have an inside line for reinstatement in either 2012 or 2016. Other sports, such as cricket and women’s netball, also have drawn a great deal of interest as possible demonstration sports for the 2012 festivities and are already recognized as official Olympic sports.
Poker is also not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). While sports such as bridge, chess, polo, and even the physical education class game Tug of War have accreditation by the IOC as official sports, poker does not. To be an official Olympic sport, there must be an official international governing body that sets rules for the activity, something poker does not have.
Another rule for being an accredited Olympic sport is that it must be widely practiced by men and women in at least 75 and 50 countries, respectively, spread over four of the world’s seven continents. Poker would seem to meet that requirement as witnessed by the growth of regional poker tours (such as the Asia Pacific Poker Tour and the Latin American Poker Tour) as well as the continued expansion of the internet version of the game.
The idea for putting poker in the Olympics isn’t a novel idea. Full Tilt Poker, during its unveiling in 2004, had a tongue and cheek website that promoted the idea and even gave away paraphernalia that read “USA Poker Team” with the Full Tilt logo. There have been other campaigns along the same line as the one orchestrated by CircusCasino.com, but few have been able to gain any traction to push poker into the Olympic Games.
The big question would be who would compete for what country? While such players as Johnny Chan (China), Scotty Nguyen (Vietnam), Freddy Deeb (Lebanon), and Tony “G” Guoga (Australia via Lithuania) have seen much of their success come in the United States (and some have become American citizens), would they be competing for their ancestral home or the U.S.? Even thinking of rosters for potential national teams, such as England with David “The DevilFish” Ulliott and Victoria Cohen or the U.S. with the legendary Doyle Brunson and Jennifer Harman, whets the appetite of poker fans worldwide.
Although there are four years remaining until the next Summer Olympics, continued pressure is needed for poker to have its outside shot at getting into the mix. The 2009 Olympic Congress will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in early October 2009, where the possibility exists that two sports will be added to the 2012 Summer Olympics schedule.