Norfolk sportspeople give their Olympic wish list

The Olympics has come a long way since 1896 – not least in the sports included.

From a mantra of amateur sporting excellence, Athens heralded the modern era with the first Games of nine disciplines.

Athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting and wrestling made up eight days of competition. Oh how times have changed…

This summer the London Olympics will see 26 sporting disciplines – plenty of them professional – across almost three weeks, swiftly followed by the Paralympic Games. Women's boxing joins the men's competition this year meaning no male-only sports in 2012, although male or female-only events will exist in the likes of synchronised swimming, decathlon and in gymnastics.

While athletics, swimming, fencing and gymnastics have been ever-present through the years, the list of sports making up an Olympiad is now eclectic.


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In the past the likes of tug of war, polo, cricket, croquet and even power boating have had their spell in the Olympic spotlight before being put to one side. With each Games now capped at 28 disciplines, London would have also hosted baseball and softball – before the two were dumped by the International Olympic Committee soon after the UK's 2012 bid was successful.

The likes of karate, squash, golf and rugby sevens attempted to fill the holes but missed out; for rugby sevens and golf, the good news is they will appear at Rio in 2016.

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The limit acknowledges the expansion – but what makes an Olympic sport? The requirements are nothing surprising: participation and organisation.

In the IOC's eyes – and for its votes – it needs to be a truly global sport, played across continents. Regular championships and a responsible organisation in charge helps seal the deal. But surely that leaves a wealth of sports feeling hard done-by at not getting to share in the greatest show on earth?

Proving you are worthy is harder since official demonstration sports were shelved after Barcelona in 1992 – with wushu getting special dispensation in Beijing four years ago.

So no more ballooning (Paris, 1900), Aussie rules football (Melbourne, 1956) or bowling (Seoul, 1988) stating their case. But what of those sports that do raise an eyebrow at their continuing Olympic omission?

Sharon Lincoln, from top Norwich netball club Thoroughbreds, said: 'It's probably a close run thing and they have been trying for a long time to get it in. Obviously I think it should be there.

'The membership in England they claim makes it the most participated women's sport in this country, but regarding the Olympics the problem is in essence it is a Commonwealth sport and most of the rest of the world doesn't play.'

For the likes of squash, the fate is similar. But should they be considered closer to the Olympic ideal than tennis or golf – both dominated by highly paid and highly sponsored stars, some way removed from that original amateur ethos?

Fakenham's former world indoor bowls champion Mervyn King, a Commonwealth Games regular, said: 'It's a shame bowls isn't there when you see some of the other sports that are – there are one or two in there which I'm surprised are in it.

'It's sports like golf; it doesn't make sense to me, especially when bowls is played so much in the Commonwealth. It doesn't seem right at all.'

The International Paralympic Committee has a similar task on its hands, with 20 sports now including boccia, goalball and wheelchair rugby. Snooker and lawn bowls have made appearances in the past.

One Norwich man who hopes he will get a second shot at Paralympic glory is Iain Dawson, who competed at the velodrome in Sydney and now hopes his new sport – para-triathlon – will see him at Rio, when it appears at the Games for the first time.

'They tried to get it into the 2012 Games but to do that they had to meet a number of standards in terms of organisation of the events during the season, and get drug testing in place, and that wasn't quite there in time,' said Dawson, who works as a full-time physiotherapist for people with learning disabilities.

'Also in terms of the number of athletes from different countries competing, London probably came a bit too soon. By the time Rio was being sorted they were much further along.

'I'll be coming up to 40 years old for Rio, not much after the Games finish. But as it's an endurance event you can still be quite good into your 40s and certainly a lot of amateur athletes are, so hopefully I can make it to the games and be competitive as well. But it is another four years on and anything can happen.'

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