Can Inline and Roller Skating Become Olympic Sports?

Meeting IOC Eligibility Criteria is Essential

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Roller sports, including the inline skating disciplines, are among the sports that are recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The International Sports Federations (IFs) that administer any recognized sport must ensure that the sport’s statutes, practice and activities conform with the Olympic Charter.

In order to promote the Olympic Movement, the IOC can recognize any international non-governmental organization that administers one or more sports at world level and encompassing organizations administering such sports at national level as an International Sports Federation.

How can a sport be recognized?

In order to be recognized, these organizations must apply the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code and conduct effective out-of-competition tests in accordance with the established rules. The recognition of IFs newly recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) shall be provisional for a period of two years or any other period fixed by the IOC Executive Board. At the end of such period, the recognition shall automatically lapse in the absence of definitive confirmation given in writing by the IOC.

In order for an IF to have a role in the Olympic Movement, the statutes, practices and activities of the IF must be fit the guidelines established in the Olympic Charter. Other than charter requirements, each IF is independent in the administration of its sport.

What are the criteria?

Any sport is eligible to become a medal sport as long as it can be scored and meets certain criteria.

  1. The first step to becoming a recognized sport of the Summer Games requires being organized into an international federation who can apply on behalf of the sport. Someone must fill in the application.
  2. A sport must also be popular in many countries. Each federation must have male participants in at least 75 countries on four continents and female participants in at least 40 countries on three continents. The first step to becoming a recognized sport of the Winter Games requires being organized into an international federation and having participants in at least 25 countries for winter sports.
  3. The potential Olympic sport must support ranked events. Any event which competes as an Olympic sport or competes within one of its disciplines will provide scores, timing or another method of measuring competitors. These measures will result in a ranking at the end of the event and will lead to the award of medals, ribbons, certificates or other non-monetary recognition of the rank earned.
  4. The events must hold competitions on a world level. To be included in the Olympic Program, an event must be recognized internationally in both participant numbers and geographically. An event is required to have been featured at least twice in world or continental championships.
  1. Physical not mechanical athletic performance is required. Sports, disciplines or events in which performance depends essentially on mechanical propulsion are not acceptable.

Once the International Olympic Committee votes to recognize a federation, the next step becomes a matter of lobbying. Organized and consistent lobbying is needed to help promote selection over other sports. This should be done without bribery, which is banned from Olympic sports promotional activity.

A prospective Olympic sport will sometimes make its first appearance as demonstration or non-medal winning sport before becoming an official Olympic sport. Demonstration sports were originally performed to expose any athletic activities that were unique to the host country at the Games, but now they are a useful part of the process used by new sports that want to become official sports.

Since it is easier to get into the Olympics under the umbrella of an existing sport, some federations give up on the quest for solo recognition and allow themselves to become a discipline. This results in a loss of independence with the addition of the economic rewards of Olympic status.

There are three ways an activity can come into the Olympics:

  • As a completely new sport and federation as described above.
  • As a new discipline that is a branch of an existing Olympic sport.
  • As a new event that is a competition within an existing discipline.

Who decides which sports are accepted?

The admission or exclusion of a any sport falls within the jurisdiction of the IOC Session of the IOC Executive Board. The International Olympic Committee process requires seven years for a new sport to be added.

Today's inline skaters are already proven Olympic contenders - but so far Olympic sports do not include them on wheels. In the years following the Olympic ice appearances of Joey Cheek, Derek Parra, Jennifer Rodriguez, Chad Hedrick and others, it has been common for inline speed skaters with Olympic dreams to trade in their inline frames for ice blades. After many seasons of inline racing accomplishments, many other inline racers like Jessica Lynn Smith, Meaghan Buisson and Katherine Reutter were forced to look at new opportunities in the ice speed skating disciplines and cross train on ice in an effort to open up some Olympic opportunities that may not ever develop for them in the inline speed skating world, since inline racing is not yet an Olympic sport.

Many wonder what is position of inline and roller sports in the Olympic world. Roller sports, including speed, artistic, hockey, skateboarding, inline downhill and inline freestyle are administered under the roller sports world governing body, Federation Internationale de Roller Sports (FIRS), and roller sports are currently recognized by the International Olympic Committee. These sports have statutes, practices and activities that conform with the Olympic Charter.

But, efforts to earn Olympic status for any of the inline and roller sports disciplines were limited at the end of the 20th century. FIRS didn’t push the promotional envelope when quad hockey was a demonstration sport in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. FIRS’ attempts to get Olympic status became most active around 2000, when inline speed skating was promoted as the most suitable roller sport for the Olympics. Competition from at least 20 other sports also seeking entry into the Olympics - at a time when they were trying to reduce the number of participating sports - kept chances of entry very slim.

Since inline racing didn’t get Olympic status, many inline speed skaters have switched to ice speed skating to get a shot at Olympic participation.

What is the Olympic status of inline and roller sports?

Now, roller sports disciplines continue to battle for available spots in the Olympic program by making presentations of our sports when the International Olympic Committee assembles to review sports for inclusion. In the U.K., the British Inline Skater Hockey Association (BiSHA) is working with other disciplines to form one governing body with the aim of achieving Olympic status. BiSHA has now achieved Sports Council recognition and forms part of British Roller Sports Federation (BRSF) – the governing body for roller skating disciplines.

How can we help get inline and roller sports into the Olympics?

FIRS is working hard to encourage members of the inline skating and roller sports community to work together to achieve high standards of activity, competition, membership and promotion quality around the world – especially since these sports share many National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and have many disciplines governed by FIRS on the world level.

Roller sports offer a variety of exciting, attractive and acrobatic sports, but many are not very well known to the general public. It is important that the IOC sees that inline skating and roller sports are popular all over the world, across many disciplines and in many media. FIRS has a worldwide marketing and promotional plan in effect, but national, regional, local and individual support of these efforts is essential.

  • Your team and club web sites, blogs, brochures, videos and booklets can help educate people on what inline and roller sports are about. Say good things about your sport. Make sure that every message is high quality in content and professionally executed, not home grown. People are listening and watching. 
  • Petitions and written support letters to convince the IOC that we really should become Olympic could help.
  • Most important is actual participation by people of all ages. Every recreational, fitness, social and session skater who is counted as part of the sport by an equipment manufacturer is as important as potential athletes when sports interest is evaluated. Skate a lot and invite others to skate.