Outdoors

Craig Hill: 3 sports that would help upgrade the Summer Olympics

The run-up is one of the best places to watch the action at a cyclocross race. Cyclocross, already more popular than some Olympic cycling disciplines, is a fall sport. It isn’t a perfect fit for the Summer or Winter Games, but the International Olympic Committee should make room for it somewhere.
The run-up is one of the best places to watch the action at a cyclocross race. Cyclocross, already more popular than some Olympic cycling disciplines, is a fall sport. It isn’t a perfect fit for the Summer or Winter Games, but the International Olympic Committee should make room for it somewhere. Staff file, 2010

The cutting edge of sports is located in place far, far away from the International Olympic Committee.

When the Rio Olympics start this week they will include two new sports: Golf and rugby.

And by new sports, I mean sports with more history than the modern Olympic Games.

The IOC just missed making these updates in time to find out if Jack Nicklaus is truly the Golden Bear. And, in 2020, the IOC plans to reintroduce the world to a sport called baseball.

In a race against a glacier and molasses, the IOC would have to settle for the bronze. But it is on the cusp of some inspired additions. The committee will soon vote on adding skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Nothing against fast-paced sports like golf, baseball and dressage, but these new events are what the Games need if they are going to remain relevant.

The IOC has done a better job of sprucing up its Winter Olympics in recent decades. Snowboarding and freestyle skiing events are now among the most popular sports.

So bring on surfing, rock climbing and skateboarding. And don’t stop there. Here are three more ideas:

OBSTACLE COURSE RACING

Mud runs and other types of obstacle course racing are wildly popular forms of recreation right now, even if many of the races are considered non-competitive.

But this seems like a natural for the Olympics and NBC, who owns the broadcast rights to the Games through 2032.

NBC has already tapped into the obstacle course racing phenomenon with shows like “American Ninja Warrior” and “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge.”

I know, reality TV shows giving rise to Olympic sports? Sounds silly until you watch an episode and witness displays of strength and agility as impressive and inspiring as anything we’re likely to see in Rio.

TRAIL ULTRARUNNING

I know, the Games already have plenty of running events. The longest of these is the marathon, a grueling 26.2-mile race on the streets in and around the host city.

But the Games could stand to pay tribute to the evolution of distance running, by including an ultramarathon that could showcase even more of the host country.

Imagine a 50- and/or 100-mile run on mountain trails. Imagine the epic views, the shots of headlamp-clad athletes running through the night and NBC taking its syrupy-sweet athlete profiles to a new level.

Sure the network would probably have to edit the 24-hour endurance race into a neat 20-minute package for prime-time broadcast, but it’s already doing this for most sports anyway.

CYCLOCROSS

Bicycling is already well represented at the Games. Road, mountain, track and BMX disciplines all will get their moments in Rio de Janeiro. However, one of the most popular types of cycling isn’t a part of the games.

A cross between road and mountain biking, cyclocross takes place on compact courses with a variety of terrain and obstacles. The muddier the better.

In some places (the Northwest included), cyclocross races draw more competitors than road and mountain bike events combined.

The sport already draws some of the world’s best athletes. When Lakewood’s Fort Steilacoom Park hosted last year’s International Cycling Union Subaru Cyclo Cup, the women’s race was won by Katerina Nash.

Nash, 38, is a Czech Republic star athlete and one of the few people to compete in the summer and winter Olympics. She competed in cross-country skiing at the 1998 and 2002 Winter Games. She was 14th in the mountain bike race at the 2012 London Games and will race for a medal Rio.

Cyclocross athletes say their sport doesn’t fit neatly into the Olympic program. It’s not a summer sport and it’s considerably different than sports of the Winter Games, all of which take place on snow or ice.

Maybe it’s time for the IOC to launch a Fall Olympics for cyclocross, cross-country running, cheerleading and American football.

Or, better yet, grab the hoses and muddy up those new Olympic golf courses so we can watch some gold-medal cyclocross.

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