Thursday, 9 October 2014

Should the IOC Add Pool to the Olympics

By: Markus Noé

Myself like millions of other Canadians this past Sunday woke up in the wee hours of the morning to cheer on our Men's hockey team in the Gold medal game against Sweden. As a patriot you could not keep me away from watching this game even though its a tournament filled with professionals when the the theme of the Olympics is Amateur sport. The combined pay roll for our Gold medal champs is around 150 million, not an amateurish pay grade at all. However like many Canadian who just want to see our best compete against the worlds best I give it a pass. When it comes to hockey in the Olympics there is great hypocrisy as the IOC makes a killing off showcasing the best pro players from around the world for free, while earning T.V revenue and ticket sales. So I would like to begin my argument for allowing professional pool players to participate by outlining this point.

Pool whether it be Billiards, Snooker or any of the rotation games is truly a world sport played by millions of people. To me the same cannot be said for sports such as Curling, Nordic Ski Cross, Ski Jumping or even Hockey for that matter. These are sports that are enjoyed and dominated by a few western countries which is fine, but it is hardly inclusive which is another theme of the Olympics.

In my opinion Curling can draw the closest comparison to the sport of pool. Most of their professionals have other jobs outside of their sport to support themselves because the few major tournaments that are held each year is not enough. Pool players know all about low payouts as the two most popular Major 9 ball tournaments pay under $50,000 each, the U.S Open and the World Championships. However Curling has the coveted Olympic exposure that Pool does not and they are benefiting from it. The youth movement in Curling is the example of this as Curling historically is dubbed as an "old man" sport. That myth was shattered as both the Men's and Women's divisions boast many teams filled with young new talent. I never watch Curling, actually I have no interest at all in it, however during the two gold medal games for the Men and Women I was watching to see how our Canucks did and I am sure there were others similar to me. This might not get me to my nearest curling rink however the exposure is great for their sport and I am sure it inspired many young Canadians to take up the sport as what would happen if Pool was introduced to the Olympics.

In countries such as the Philippines, Japan, China and basically all of Asia boast millions of pool players and fans. They have well  established tours and and championships and in many of these countries Pool is the main sport. However none of these countries have the opportunity to watch their hero's compete for a gold medal in Pool. Not to mention most of these Asian countries are either not included or do not have a great deal of success in either the Summer or Winter Olympics in part I am sure because these popular western sports are not as big in their countries. So again their is an exclusion here.

Furthermore Pool can be a great addition to the Olympics for several reasons. It is a true 1-1 sport with world standardize rules where there is a clear winner or loser. It is not one of these judged sports that comes with controversy such as Ice Skating. Its a sport that everyone in the world has participated in at one point or another in their own life-time. Which means the average person if given the opportunity could become a real fan and admirer because it takes exactly 30 seconds to find out how difficult pool really is. Earl Strickland multiple World and U.S Open winner outlined this in his recent documentary when he said, "the only thing I know harder then learning to play pool is dying."

Pool has all the requirements to be an Olympic sport. Even in its professional state it has an amateur feel as the leading money winner each year hovers around $100, 000 an amount that the lowest ranked golfer makes on the PGA tour in a few tournaments. The players as a whole are not or barely sponsored footing most of the expenses themselves as they travel the world tournament to tournament.

With our sport being so bogged down with promoters just trying to make a quick buck, and little or no promotion we could really benefit from the exposure the Olympics brings. At the very least all these players from around the world who dedicate tens of thousands of dollars and hours into this sport deserve to be recognized at the Olympics level.

Just in Canada I have been around and talked with Erik Hjorleifson, Jason Klatt, John Morra, Alain Martel, Danny Hewitt and seen their pain. These are world class champions who struggle to make ends meet but who continue to grind out a living year after year hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel and the Olympics should be that light. As a Canadian pool fan I dream of the day I get to watch one of these guys compete for my country in the sport I love on the grandest of all stages.

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