Strike It lucky

Despite their role as relative newcomers to Olympic sports bidding, World Bowling tells us why they are more than just plucky outsiders.

With support from more than one million fans from Japan, bowling is hoping to use its growing Asian fanbase to help edge its away into the Olympic Movement.

Bowling has already gained a foothold in Japanese culture, with over 1000 active centres having recorded twelve million participants in 2013 throughout the country.

“Becoming a part of the Olympic Movement is a next step for us and an important one,” President Dornberger told SportBusiness International. “Our vision is strongly aligned to that of the Olympic Movement, with the sport of bowling placing solid emphasis on creating an accessible environment for all participants.

Within our organisation it is well demonstrated that our sport is a powerful tool for creating social change.

For some, bowling would be a surprising choice, but it’s a natural sport for Tokyo 2020

At this month’s pitch to the Tokyo 2020 organising committee, Dornberger revealed World Bowling will be focusing on three key issues around inclusion, participation and home grown support from the Japanese audience.

“[We believe] bowling will add something new and exciting to the Games with its mix of performance and participation, top-level competitive sport alongside with having fun with friends on Fridays; a really unique combination,“ he said.

“For some, bowling would be a surprising choice, but actually it a natural sport for Tokyo 2020,” he added “It is also a great chance [for the IOC] to use bowling to reach out to new audiences currently less involved in the Olympic Games – for example our sport’s popularity with women in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.”


He also stated that if the sport made it into the 2020 Games it would be an effective promotional tool for both national and regional promotion, due to its growing popularity as a recreational, grass roots sport in Asia. Youth Appeal Dornberger also pointed towards the fact that there are 20,000 bowling centres officially registered around the world, with development systems in place to help promote the amateur roller into an Olympic contender.

“For the many young people who choose to turn bowling into a serious sporting venture – such as Japan’s own gold medal hopeful 16-year-old Shion Izumune – almost all of our 112 National Federations have youth development programs to foster this transition,” he added.

He said that he has no concerns about World Bowling’s role as outsiders in the bidding race, especially after seeing wrestling get voted back into the Olympic Movement in 2013 he is convinced that the process will be fair and transparent.

EXPERT VIEW – Paul Dunphy
Major Events Consultant, SportBusiness Intelligence

“Our experience so far with the organisers has been open and clear,” he said. “It has been a pleasure to be involved in this process.”

It is difficult to see how bowling will move onto the next stage. Bowling has a perception problem and needs an extreme makeover: essentially it is a sport for people on their last legs. While bowling participation numbers may potentially increase as the world’s population ages, it does not align with the IOC’s desire to engage with the young.

It has been a mainstay sport of the Commonwealth Games for many years, and like bowling, it too seems to be on its last legs. It is just hard to see how a Commonwealth sport such as bowling will do much to assist the IOC in trying to achieve its desire to be seen as progressive and modern.

To their credit bowling has put their hand up and stated their desire to be part of the Olympic family but they are also realistic about their chances of success.

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