World polo’s recent Olympic submission a commitment to start process of returning to Games programme after 80-year hiatus.
World polo has confirmed that it would send its best players to the Olympics if the sport was one day to participate in the Games, but an age cap on players hasn’t been ruled out.
The Federation of International Polo (FIP) recently submitted an application to be included on to the 2020 Games programme at Tokyo and although it was never likely to be make the shortlist, FIP’s intention was to start the process of a possible return after five previous appearances.
There had been a lack of understanding in the sport over how polo would be conveyed at a major Games, with the possibility of the sports’ best players missing out and handicap limits imposed to make it a more level-playing field due to the small number of nations playing at the top level.
“We believe it was important to show our commitment to get back polo in the Olympics and applying as an additional sport was a way of doing so,” said Alejandro Taylor, FIP’s chief executive.
“Our application says that the best athletes will participate, therefore this means that participating nations will be invited to send their best team.”
This would mean that Argentina, with its raft of 10 goal players, would undoubtedly take gold, with FIP admitting that the “also rans” would battle for the minor medals.
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Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers, FIP’s president, said that one option could see an age cap introduced.
He said. “An alternative would be to propose an age level that all players had to be 25 or under, which could ensure that there was a more level playing field.”
Meanwhile, FIP view their inclusion as a demonstration sport at the World Equestrian Games as “an important step towards the inclusion of polo in the Olympics. “
FIP expect to be invited again in 2019 in Canada.
“Although it is one of FIP’s stated ideals to return the sport to the modern Olympics it will not be an easy task as the IOC is much more commercially minded these days and there are less and less equestrian sports being included,” Colquhoun-Denvers said.
“This combined with the infrastructure costs and the unfortunate `elitist’ image that polo fights so hard against, means that it is much more likely that we will end up as a demonstration sport whenever the Olympics or World Equestrian Games are being held in regions where the infrastructure is already available as we did recently in Deauville.”
No easy task
Polo is already an Olympic recognised sport by the IOC, having been played in various formats at the 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936 Games. Great Britain have won three gold medals and Argentina two. However, although it is one of FIP’s stated ideals to return the sport to the modern Olympics, the world governing body admit that it will not be an easy task dueo to the IOC’s more commercially-minded vision, as well as less equestrian sports being included.