Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Olympic Ultimate

Since the International Olympic Commission/Committee/Combine/Conspiracy announced that Ultimate Frisbee is Olympic-worth, if not actually on the Olympic schedule in the near future, there has been much discussion that I have avoided until now.  The NYT has a Room for Debate today, featuring four sets of arguments about Olympic Ultimate.  Some have good points, and some not so much.

The four stances are:
  • Jody Avirgnan argues that Ultimate should only be made an olympic sport if its essential spirit is kept intact--self-reffed with observers mediating disputes.  Yes, a thousand times yes.  I don't see why this is a problem since each sport seems to come with its own rules for adjudicating things.  If the skating stuff can be judged according to the international skating federation rules, then why not Ultimate with self-reffed plus observers?
  • Dave Zirin argues that the Games would be bad for Ultimate, given its corruption, and given the need to secure the various facilities.  Of all the games, I am not sure that adding a bunch of fields is going to stretch the Olympics facilities budgets or security budget.  Just play on the soccer fields when the Olympic soccer games are not being played.  Ultimate is used to being on second-hand fields, so this would be keeping in the tradition of the sport.
  • Zara Cadoux argues that if the Olympics were to have ultimate, they should have both men's and women's tourneys.  That the women waiting for the men's game's popularity to trickle down is problematic.  I agree with her.  Indeed, I am tempted to go a step farther: that the mixed (co-ed) game be the one that goes to the Olympics first.  This would be unique contribution to the games, keeping in the spirit of Ultimate to be deviant/path-breaking/socially just.  Are there any games in the Olympics that have mixed teams other than a couple of ice skating events?
  • Tiina Booth argues that the priority of the ultimate community should be on developing high school ultimate.  There is heaps of high school ultimate in Canada, but I guess the US may be somewhat more hostile territory?  Anyhow, this seems to be a tangent, as Olympic Ultimate vs. High School Ultimate seems to be a false choice.  
So, where do I stand on this?  I think it would be very cool to have a sport that requires even less infrastructure than soccer, one that is currently played around the world and one that has a great attitude about itself and about competition to get a piece of the stage at the Olympics.  Yes, the Olympics have their own problems, but imagine the impact of seeing a truly mixed game televised---that winning teams are those that best utilize both the men and the women on the team!  Or, if my dream cannot be realized, that having men's and women's ultimate join at the same time, showing that the game is for everyone?  That would be pretty cool, too.

As we already have processes that send national teams to tournaments around the world,* ultimate is ready for this.  Maybe the Olympics are ready to have them.

* The US teams tend to dominate the current competitions, but that will change over time as ultimate spreads wider and deeper.

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