Will Ultimate gain Olympic status?
The Olympics closed out at the start of this month yet again having featured no flying disc sports (minus the Discus throw—that doesn't count here). There were a handful of new events introduced this year: skateboarding, surfing, karate, and climbing. For years now, ultimate has been known as one of the fastest growing sports in the world, and the World Flying Disc Federation has been recognized by the IOC since 2013. So with such a vast international community of athletes playing a rapidly growing sport, one starts to wonder: will we ever see ultimate in the Olympics?
As we lived through one of the strangest years in professional sports, we saw the first postponed Olympic Games since WWII. All sports communities, from local to professional, were shaken up by the abrupt pause. It’s natural to wonder what coming back to ultimate after a year off does to the momentum that’s been building. So far, we’ve seen how eager everyone has been to get back in action, whether it be picking up alternate sports to stay in shape (looking at you, Disc Golf defectors) or forming pods to safely scrimmage. However, when given the opportunity to chase plastic again, we could not have been more ready.
One of the most admirable things about this sport is how tight-knit it is, even across the globe. In this game, your friend from summer league also plays in the AUDL, maybe another goes overseas to play for the national team, or someone else has a national championship under their belt. Grassroots experiences of talking over rules, discussing plays, and running things on our own is what makes us unique. Can self-regulation be implemented on an international stage that requires so much regulation? While some would love to see ultimate take a larger stage, others are hesitant about joining another governing body, especially the IOC, given their troubling past.
Ultimate has gained merit for encouraging players to uphold community values, such as Spirit of the Game. It's natural to wonder if joining the Olympics could negate that, if competitiveness would get in the way of the camaraderie that we've all grown to love about ultimate. Seeing the sport grow to its utmost potential should be every ultimate player's hope, but if you ask around, you’ll get a surprisingly mixed response. USAU lists 2028 Games inclusion as a goal for the upcoming years, but who knows where the sport will be by then? Seven years ago, USAU first started getting spots on ESPN programming (which they’ve renewed for another 3 years), and just four years ago, the AUDL signed the first live cable deal for the sport. Hopefully there is a way to keep our unique values and reach the largest stages in the sports world, but only time will tell.