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Should darts be an Olympic sport?

Should darts be an Olympic sport?

Alex Moss |

Should darts be an Olympic sport?

England World Cup of Darts

England's Luke Humphries and Michael Smith celebrate winning the 2024 PDC World Cup of Darts - the only team event currently on the PDC circuit

It is a question which has been a hotly-debated topic between sports fans for years: should darts be an Olympic sport? With the Paris 2024 Olympics just around the corner, darts remains off the schedule despite calls for it to be included in the programme of events.

The multi-sport event in Paris this summer is set to feature 32 different sports, including for the first-time breakdancing, but darts is one of the most popular sports not in the Olympics.

In this blog, we explore both sides of the argument for introducing darts into the Olympics, as well as get the latest from the World Darts Federation (WDF) on their application process with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Is darts an Olympic sport?

Darts is not currently an Olympic sport and does not feature in the Olympic programme of sports and events. The ‘darts in Olympics’ debate has grown plenty of support outside of darts over the years, most notably from Sir Clive Woodward – England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning coach. He posted on social media in 2013: ‘Darts definitely an Olympic sport – look at fans, TV coverage, audience and real skill under pressure.’

Why darts should become an Olympic sport?

When it comes to discussing the topic of ‘is darts an Olympic sport’ there are several reasons why it should be recognised by the IOC in their Olympic Games programme. A growing number of countries have now classed darts as an official sport, including the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Ireland and Scotland. In 2005, darts was officially recognised as a sport by Sport England.

Darts requires a lot of skill and precision, like some of the current recognised Olympic sports such as archery and shooting. It is a sport which is also played all over the world with more than 75 active darts federations operating across the globe. Alongside a huge participation rate, darts attracts a sizeable viewing audience too with millions tuning in worldwide to watch tournaments such as the PDC World Darts Championship.

Why is darts not recognised as an Olympic sport?

There are a few reasons why darts has not been recognised as an Olympic sport, with one of the key ones being the long-standing perception of darts as a ‘pub game’ by some of the general public. Compared to many other Olympic sports, darts is not as physically demanding, although it does still require a lot of mental concentration and skill to consistently hit the correct targets on the dartboard.

The fierce competition from other sports is another explanation for why darts has not been included in the Olympic programme yet. The IOC’s Executive Board have approved the inclusion of cricket, baseball and softball, flag football, lacrosse and squash for the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics, whilst breakdancing, a sport making its Olympic debut at Paris 2024, has missed out, which illustrates just how challenging the selection process is for the Olympics.

Professional darts players on why darts should become an Olympic sport

Some of the leading professional darts players have put forward their support to darts being included in the Olympics. The current world number one and PDC world champion Luke Humphries, multi-time world champion Michael van Gerwen and the 2023 PDC world champion Michael Smith are amongst the sport’s biggest stars who have backed the idea of having darts in a future Olympic Games.

“I do think it should be there,” Humphries said to the media during a press conference at the Poland Darts Masters last month. “Right now, darts is probably the second or third biggest sport in our country (England). I think it’s growing and getting bigger in so many other countries. It’s probably the biggest sport that’s not in the Olympic Games, so I think it should be.”

At the same tournament, van Gerwen lent his support to a darts Olympics competition in the future. When he asked if he could see darts being an Olympic sport, he said: “I can do because I see other sports (in the Olympics already) that are not as professional or as big as us. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the Olympic committee. It’s out of my league. I wish I could have an influence on it, but unfortunately not.”

In an interview with Fox Sports last year, Smith commented: “I truly believe it should be there. If we keep pushing, then maybe. There’s different sports coming in now and hopefully we can get there one day. We’re out-attending football and football’s in the Olympics. Our attendance is up there – it’d earn a lot of money for the Olympic committee. I think it’d be a great addition.”

Ex-professional darts players on why darts should not become an Olympic sport

Two of the most prominent darts pundits are against darts being included in the Olympics, with their view that the World Championship should be the pinnacle event in the sport. Speaking to Sky Sports, Wayne Mardle and John Part both outlined their argument for not wanting darts as part of the Olympics.

“My view has always been no (to darts at the Olympics),” Mardle said. “I think the World Championship is what it’s all about. So first off the Olympics would be secondary, and I also think the Olympics is for Olympians, it’s for people who are born physically stronger, faster and better than normal human beings. (The Olympics) should be about how quick or strong you can be, not about hitting a target. The other sports like shooting and archery shouldn’t be in there either.”

Three-time world champion Part added: “I’m with Wayne, I’m a purist and I’d love for the Olympics to get reduced in the number of events. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for darts to get some more exposure, but I like the main events, the 100m, the power lifting and that kind of thing.”

Tom McNab, the former director of coaching for British Athletics, is also opposed to the dart Olympic sport idea, and told The Guardian: “In the 1900 games croquet was also in, and you don’t exactly lose your breath playing that. But just because croquet was in the Olympics 100 years ago does not mean darts should be in now. The spirit of Olympism in terms of sportsmanship and competition remains but I think the IOC has to be quite objective about which sports it admits. There is a minimum level of physical activity which is required and that means darts cannot be considered.”

So, when might darts be included in the Olympics?

For a sport to be considered for inclusion in a future Olympic Games, it must first apply to become an Olympic sport. The WDF are the organisation leading the application for darts to be put forward to the IOC, with the Brisbane 2032 Olympics the next opportunity for darts to potentially be added to the Olympic programme.

The WDF’s president Bill Hatter has said that the pandemic has halted their progress, but they are looking to renew their application later this year. Hatter told Darts Corner: “Unfortunately, things stalled when Covid hit and since then the IOC has made changes to the application process that basically puts us back to the start of the application for the WDF.

“We will be in contact with our sports consultant this year who has all the current application documents. The fact we are a full member of AIMS (Alliance of Independent Members of Recognised Sports), plus a full signatory with WADA does help the process immediately, but unfortunately, we have not made any movement forward since Covid.”

How would becoming an Olympic sport benefit the darts community?

There are lots of benefits for darts to gain if it were to be included in the Olympics. The Olympic Games truly is a global event and captures the attention of the world every four years, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics attracting 3.05 billion unique viewers on its coverage across TV and digital platforms. Being included in the Olympic Games could be a watershed moment for darts in gaining worldwide recognition and attracting new fans to the sport.

As well as bringing in a new audience, seeing darts in the Olympics could help increase participation too, inspiring more people to try the game out. Having Olympic status also brings with it added funding and sponsorship opportunities, with the international federation of each sport receiving a share of the Olympic revenue. Having that association with the Olympics can also improve the public image of darts from a ‘pub game’ to a more respected and pursuable sport.

Prepare for the future of darts with Darts Corner

Whilst the Paris 2024 Olympics goes on this summer without darts on the menu, there is still a strong appetite in the darting community for ‘the arrows’ to be included in future years. Let us know your thoughts on where you stand on the debate by getting in touch via our social media channels on X (Twitter) and Facebook.

Go for gold on the dartboard this summer with our high-quality and extensive range of darts equipment at Darts Corner. Create your own Olympic darts arena with a dartboard and a set of steel tip darts and take on your friends or family and see who can race to the finish line first!

Pictures: PDC

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