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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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April: Fanning The Olympic Flame
April 2019

The news was disappointing, but hardly unexpected. Billiards will not be represented at the Summer Games in Paris in 2024. Cue Sports was one of many hopefuls being considered for inclusion in the Paris 2024 Olympic Sports Programme by the Game's host organizing committee, Paris 2024. (See Wing Shots, pg. 12)

Unlike previous years, in which billiards simply hoped to be added to the program despite little or no formal lobbying, the World Confederation of Billiard Sports (WCBS) launched a formal campaign ahead of Paris 2024's decision regarding which additional sports it would recommend to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inclusion.

(In recent years, the IOC has allowed the organizing committee for upcoming Games to propose new sports to be added to the Olympics' list of “core” sports. The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee added baseball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing.)

The WCBS submitted a formal bid to be included on the list of sports being considered by the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee. With the help of the French Billiard Federation, the WCBS, made up of the World Billiard Union (carom), the World Snooker Federation (snooker) and World Pool-Billiard Association (pool), staged a lavish press conference at the Eiffel Tower in Paris in early December. The newly formed Billiards 2024 Committee used the occasion to formally announce the cue sports' bid. Top players from the three disciplines were in attendance to support the cause.

Billiards 2024 also scheduled an exhibition in early March to show Paris 2024 Organizing Committee members how the cue sports might look in an Olympic setting. A snooker, carom and pool table sat side by side in a suburban Paris entertainment venue, and four three-player teams representing France, Asia, Europe and the Rest of the World competed in what was to be a last-ditch effort to impress the organizing committee. Unfortunately, Paris 2024 jumped the gun, announcing its recommendations for additional sports — break dancing, surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding — a full month ahead of its previously announced schedule. As it turns out, billiards wasn't even among the seven “finalists” being considered.

To its credit, Billiards 2024 went ahead with its World Team Trophy event (see pg. 34), which was streamed around the world on the Olympic Channel.

Of course, the whole exercise raises several questions. First, is billiards ever likely to be added to the Summer Games as an official Olympic sport? And two, is the effort to be taken seriously by the IOC worth the time and money required of the worldwide billiard community? Honestly, it's difficult to imagine a scenario in which the IOC and/or a host organizing committee looks at a hundreds-of-year-old sport like billiards and says, “How have we been missing this for all these years?” The Olympics has become obsessed with youth and lifestyle, and all of the global advertisers and sponsors those categories attract. In its current form, billiards simply doesn't offer that kind of appeal. In the '90s, when professional pool was widely televised, viewer demographics bore out the fact that pool's demographic skews older. It is why pool programming had such difficulty attracting sponsors and advertisers. Could that change? Of course it could. A focus on the development of youth participants could get the ball rolling in the right direction, but that will take time. As it stands, billiards doesn't appear to fit the Olympic ideal as neatly as break dancing and sport climbing.

That said, is a continued effort to get noticed worthwhile? Absolutely. For starters, simply being a member of the IOC gives a sport credibility. It also gets it into the World Games, which is essentially the Olympics for IOC members that are not actually in the Olympics. It gives players and countries a chance to get noticed on a world stage. And that has enormous value, particularly to smaller countries and countries that don't generally win Olympic medals.

Countries that see opportunities for their athletes to shine in particular sports in international competition will generally invest in the development of those sports. That is the main reason the cue sports should always at least try to make its way into the Olympics. I hear people moan about fringe sports and sports that barely get coverage during the Olympics — synchronized swimming, badminton, archery, etc. — but their inclusion alone gets countries to support those sports if its athletes have a chance to medal. The Philippines has won just 10 Olympic medals since 1924. Don't you think the Philippine government would support a more structured development of pool players if cue sports was in the Olympics?

Getting national governments to help you grow your sport is pretty efficient and effective.

And one more suggestion. Perhaps the WCBS should set its sights on the Youth Olympic Games, which are staged every other year. Show the sport's youth appeal and present it in a manner that looks contemporary.

After all, the Youth Olympics was the springboard for break dancing's inclusion in Paris ahead of cue sports.

Just sayin.'

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