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Why Kabaddi is Not in Olympics?

Kabaddi, a contact team sport with its roots in ancient India, has been played for over 4000 years and has gained popularity worldwide. However, despite its rich history and global appeal, kabaddi has not been included in the Olympics. This article will explore the reasons behind this exclusion and discuss the efforts to include the sport in international sports events.

Discussion on Kabaddi as a demonstration sport in the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Kabaddi was first showcased as a demonstration sport at the 1936 Berlin Olympics[1]. This event marked the first time that kabaddi was introduced to the international audience, showcasing the sport’s ancient origins and its potential for global recognition.

Explanation of the criteria for a sport to be included in the Olympics

To be included in the Olympics, a sport must meet specific criteria set by the IOC. These criteria include:

  1. Played in at least 75 countries across 4 continents by men: The sport should be played in a significant number of countries across different regions.
  2. Played in at least 40 countries across 3 continents by women: The sport should also have a strong presence among female athletes.
  3. It must have an international federation that is recognized by the IOC and that enforces the Olympic Charter and the World Anti-Doping Code.
  4. It must increase the value and appeal of the Olympic Games and reflect its modern and universal spirit.
  5. It must not be purely mind sports, such as chess or bridge, or primarily physical activities, such as motor sports or billiards.
  6. It must not rely on mechanical propulsion, unless it is a means to enable the disabled to practice the sport.

Analysis of why Kabaddi does not meet these criteria

Despite its popularity and global appeal, kabaddi does not meet the IOC’s criteria for inclusion in the Olympics. The sport is played in only a limited number of countries, and its presence in international sports events is not as widespread as required by the IOC rules[3]. Furthermore, kabaddi is a contact sport, which may not align with the IOC’s definition of ‘physical’ sports[3].

Kabaddi, a popular contact sport with its origins in ancient India, has not been included in the Olympics despite its global appeal. Several reasons contribute to its exclusion from the Olympic Games:

  1. Limited International Presence: Kabaddi, despite having a World Cup and being part of the Asian Games, lacks a significant international presence. As per the current LITS rankings, only 17 countries have been given ranks based on points accumulated in tournaments.
  2. Low Global Participation and Popularity: While kabaddi is played in almost 31 countries across the world, it does not meet the criterion of 75 countries or more, which is a prerequisite for Olympic inclusion.
  3. It has a low global participation and popularity outside of Asia. Kabaddi is mainly played and followed by the people of the Indian subcontinent and other Asian countries, such as Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Kabaddi is not well-known or appreciated by the rest of the world, and faces stiff competition from other sports, such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, rugby, and hockey.
  4. It has issues with the IOC rules around physical contact and “national” sports. Kabaddi is a contact sport, where the players have to tackle, hold, push, or pull the opponents to prevent them from scoring or escaping. This may pose a risk of injury or violence, and may not be in line with the IOC’s vision of promoting peace and harmony through sports. Kabaddi is also considered a “national” sport of India and Bangladesh, and a state game of several Indian states, such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. This may create a perception of bias or favoritism, and may not reflect the diversity and universality of the Olympic Games.
  5. There may be other possible reasons, such as the lack of standardization and uniformity of the rules and regulations of Kabaddi, the difficulty of officiating and judging the game, the challenge of attracting sponsors and media attention, and the resistance of the existing Olympic sports to accommodate new sports.
  6. Other Possible Reasons: Apart from the above-mentioned factors, there could be other reasons, such as the lack of national federations, leagues, and competitions in many countries, that have contributed to kabaddi’s exclusion from the Olympics.

Efforts to Include Kabaddi in International Sports Events

  1. The Indian Olympic Association’s proposal for including Kabaddi in the Commonwealth Games:
    The Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the national Olympic committee of India, proposed to include Kabaddi as a medal sport in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which will be held in Birmingham, England. The IOA argued that Kabaddi is a sport that originated in the Commonwealth countries, and that it has a potential to attract a large audience and generate revenue. The proposal was supported by the IKF and the Asian Kabaddi Federation (AKF), but it was rejected by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), the governing body of the Commonwealth Games, citing the lack of time and space to accommodate new sports.
  2. The IKF and the AKF have been organizing and conducting various international tournaments and championships for Kabaddi, such as the Kabaddi World Cup, the Asian Games, the Asian Kabaddi Championship, the South Asian Games, the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, and the Asian Beach Games. These events have helped to showcase the talent and skill of the Kabaddi players, and to increase the popularity and awareness of the sport among the spectators and the media.
  3. The Pro Kabaddi League (PKL), a professional Kabaddi league in India, was launched in 2014, and has become one of the most successful and popular sports leagues in the country. The PKL features eight franchise teams, each representing a city or a state, and has a format of round-robin and knockout stages. The PKL has attracted many domestic and foreign players, as well as sponsors and broadcasters, and has generated a huge fan following and revenue. The PKL has also inspired the creation of other similar leagues, such as the Super Kabaddi League in Pakistan, the Bangladesh Premier League in Bangladesh, and the Vivo Pro Kabaddi League in Iran.
  4. Discussion on the lack of international presence of Kabaddi: Kabaddi has been played in the Asian Games and has a World Cup, but it does not have a significant international presence. As per the current LITS rankings, only 17 countries have been given ranks based on points accumulated in tournaments. The sport’s limited international presence may hinder its chances of being included in the Olympics.

Top reasons Kabaddi should be included

  1. Increasing Globalization of the Sport: Kabaddi has seen exceptional growth in the last few years, with the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) becoming a global brand and being watched by millions worldwide1. The sport’s increasing globalization and popularity beyond its traditional strongholds make a strong case for its inclusion in the Olympics.
  2. Large Asian Diaspora Populations Interest Worldwide: Kabaddi is widely followed in many countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, and Iran, apart from its stronghold in India. The large Asian diaspora populations across the world have a significant interest in the sport, which could contribute to its success as an Olympic event.
  3. Opportunity for Greater Recognition, Development, and Investment: Inclusion in the Olympics will not only increase the viewership of the sport but also motivate other countries to invest in its development. The recognition and investment that come with being an Olympic sport could lead to the further growth and professionalization of Kabaddi on a global scale.

Addressing IOC concerns

  1. Potential rule changes to increase safety and broaden appeal:
    Kabaddi can make some rule changes to increase the safety and broaden the appeal of the sport. Kabaddi can introduce some modifications and variations to the game, such as reducing the physical contact and aggression, increasing the scoring opportunities and the excitement, and adding some elements of strategy and teamwork. Kabaddi can also adopt some features and standards from other sports, such as uniforms, equipment, technology, and statistics, to make the game more professional and attractive.
  2. Strategies for further international expansion and participation:
    Kabaddi could focus on expanding its presence in international sports events and fostering collaboration with other countries to increase its global recognition3. For example, the Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) has helped spread the popularity of the game around the world, and Kabaddi has been included in the Asian Games since 19904.
  3. Case studies of other sports overcoming IOC barriers:
    Kabaddi can present some case studies and examples of other sports that have overcome the IOC barriers and have been included in the Olympics. Kabaddi can learn from the experiences and best practices of other sports, such as rugby, golf, karate, skateboarding, and surfing, that have faced similar challenges and obstacles, and have managed to convince the IOC and the other stakeholders of their value and appeal. Kabaddi can also highlight the positive impacts and outcomes of these sports, such as increased participation, diversity, and innovation, and how they have contributed to the Olympic movement and its ideals.

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