Federation of International Polo to maintain Olympic drive

The Federation of International Polo (FIP) has expressed its intention to push on with an effort to return the sport to the Olympic Games programme after a recent unsuccessful bid for inclusion at Tokyo 2020.

The FIP submitted an application to be included on the 2020 Games programme, a move that was intended to start the process of a possible return after five previous appearances at the Olympics. The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee last month proposed baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing as additional sports for its staging of the Olympic Games.

The decision meant that bowling, squash and wushu failed to make the cut from the shortlist of eight international federations unveiled in June. These eight had initially been narrowed down from 26 applications, including polo, for Tokyo 2020.

The FIP has now sought to clear up confusion as to how polo would be presented at an Olympic Games. “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,” Alejandro Taylor, FIP’s chief executive, told UK newspaper The Telegraph. “Our application says that the best athletes will participate, therefore this means that participating nations will be invited to send their best team.”

Nicholas Colquhoun-Denvers, FIP’s president, said that one option could see an age cap introduced. He added: “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.”

Polo is already recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), having been played in various formats at the 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936 Games. Polo was utilised as a demonstration sport at the International Equestrian Federation’s (FEI) 2014 World Games in Normandy, France. It expects to be invited back for the 2018 event in Bromont, Canada, with inclusion being seen as benefiting the Olympic goal.

“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 added.

“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.”