Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Julie from Philadephia. Julie Wonders, “Why is softball not a sport in the olympics?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Julie!
Do you love to watch the Olympics? There’s nothing quite like rooting for your country’s athletes in your favorite sports. From gymnastics to swimming to track and field, everyone can find an event to enjoy. Have you ever WONDERed how many sports are in the Olympics, anyway?
This might seem like an easy question to answer. However, the number of sports in the Olympics can change from one set of games to the next. The number can even be debated within a particular Olympic Games. It often depends on how sports are defined.
The first modern Olympic Games took place in 1896 in Athens, Greece. It featured nine sports: athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling. These are all still part of the Summer Games today. There have also been many changes over the past century.
In the past, the host country had a lot of power over which sports were included. Today, however, those decisions are made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Over the years, many sports have come and gone. This includes demonstration sports. Many of these are tried but never made part of the official games.
The IOC uses several terms for the competitions that take place during the Summer Games. An “event” is a specific competition that results in the awarding of a medal. For example, the 100-meter freestyle is an event. It’s part of the wider “discipline” of swimming. The discipline includes other events, such as breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke. Swimming is a discipline in the “sport” of aquatics. This includes other disciplines, such as diving and water polo.
When counting sports, some people only count sports as defined by the IOC. This is why some might say there were 28 sports in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. Others, however, count each discipline as a separate sport. This explains why the official website of the 2016 Summer Olympics listed 42 sports.
In other words, the count of 28 sports lists aquatics as a sport. The count of 42 sports breaks it down to include swimming, diving, and water polo as four separate sports.
How does the IOC decide which sports to include in the Olympic Games? It looks at many factors. For example, the sport must be popular among both men and women across much of the world. As new games arise, they can start out as demonstration sports. They may later be officially added to the games. As others decline in popularity, they might be removed from the games. For example, the IOC removed both baseball and softball after the 2008 Olympic Games. Both events have now been reinstated.
How can a sport be reinstated in the Olympics? People can lobby the IOC for a revival of a sport. In 2016, for example, golf returned to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence. Likewise, rugby made an appearance after having been gone for the past 92 years.
Do you watch the Olympics with your family every four years? Which events are your favorite? If you could pick one sport to add to the games, which would you choose? That may be a difficult decision—the world is full of many great options!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.7, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.9, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2