Written copy courtesy of Aspen Valley Polo Club.
The future just got a little brighter for polo and its next generation of players. Polo has been confirmed as a showcase sport for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games, scheduled October 6-18 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The fourth International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission, after a recent visit to the Argentine capital, approved both polo and squash to be added to the sports program.
The “Sports Lab” concept was launched at the 2014 Nanjing Games where roller sports, skateboarding, sport climbing and wushu were featured. Since then, skateboarding and sport climbing have been added to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. All 28 Summer Olympic sports including dressage and show jumping will be held in addition to new and non-Olympic disciplines. Athletes born on or after January 2001 and on or before December 31, 2003 are permitted to compete for Olympic medals. The age limitation of the athletes is 14 to 18.
It was only natural polo was added since the sport is so popular in Argentina and surrounding areas and home of Adolfo Cambiaso, the world’s greatest polo player, along with several other top players. While team selection has not been determined by various polo federations, it is expected that two of Cambiaso’s children, Mia, 15, and Poroto, 12, could represent Argentina. The United States, England and other countries have talented pools to select from.
It is the third Summer Youth Olympics to be held after the 2010 Singapore and 2014 Nanjing Games. The previous Games hosted 3,600 athletes over 13 days of competition.
Access to the four Youth Olympic Games venue parks will be free to attract more fans and allow more youth to experience elite sport competition. Local youth will have the opportunity to access some of the Youth Olympic Games fields of play and competitions and free “Train With Champion” sessions will be offered with Olympians. Sports initiation, organized in 30 sports, will also enable youth to try out the sports.
Buenos Aires is also bidding against Santiago, Chile, for the right to host the Pan American Games in 2023. Guillermo Steta, president of the Mexican Polo Federation, is spearheading a move to get polo into the Pan American Games, which could pave the way for its return to the Olympics.
Polo’s confirmation for the Youth Olympic Games could have a huge impact on polo’s aspirations to return to the Summer Olympic Games. It has been called a positive development for the growth and exposure of polo on a worldwide stage. Polo was last featured in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games when Argentina won the gold medal after an 11-0 victory over Britain in the final. Argentina also won the gold medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics. The sport has been an Olympic medal event at five Olympics, also appearing in 1900 in Paris, London in 1908 and Antwerp in 1920.
“Buenos Aires 2018 will have an innovative and modern approach,” 2018 Buenos Aires Chairman Gerardo Werthein told reporters. “Instead of waiting for young people to come to the sport, the Games will aim to bring the sport, culture and education to millennials and get them involved through interactive activities. It will be an open event for everyone to enjoy and will have a strong focus on sustainability.” IOC officials believe the model will act as a testing ground for the Olympic Movement as the program is shifting toward a more youth-focused and urban setting.
Wellington, Florida, is a hotbed for youth polo through programs such as the Polo Training Foundation and the USPA’s National Youth Tournament Series.
The Polo School at Grand Champions in Wellington, Florida, and Aspen Valley Polo Club in Aspen, Colorado, have played a key role in building the grass roots and up-and-coming players through kids polo camps, teaching lessons, stick-and-ball and several kids tournaments.