What Does a Sport Need to be Olympic?

To be Olympic, a sport has to meet different requirements, as indicated in the Charter of the International Olympic Committee. For example, one of them is to be guided by the global anti-doping code.
What Does a Sport Need to be Olympic?

Last update: 14 August, 2019

Do you know why certain sports, such as rugby don’t participate in the Olympic Games?

This is because, in order to have the honor of becoming ‘Olympic’, a sport has to meet certain standards. Find out what these are in the next article.

Non-Olympic sports: disciplines that are conspicuous by their absence

You may have seen several editions of the Games and wondered why such a sport did not appear in competitions? Some cases are more striking than others, due to their worldwide popularity or history.

However, according to the International Olympic Committee, they don’t meet the requirements to include them in the maximum event of world sports.

The sports that don’t have the distinction of ‘Olympic’ at present are:

1. Motoring

While many still question them and wonder if motorsports are truly sports, the truth is that drivers must train physically and mentally to compete.

Regarding their participation in the Games, the only exception was in the 1900 edition. This was when there were auto and motorcycle races as an exhibition. Beyond this specific case, nowadays motorcycling isn’t an Olympic sport.

2. Karate

While it’ll be present at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, it’ll only do so on that occasion. For the next Olympic Games, held at Paris in 2024, it won’t be included in the list of accepted sports.

Undoubtedly, the absence of karate in competitions is quite controversial, because it’s the second most practiced martial art in the world. The first is taekwondo and the third, judo, and both are Olympians.

karate in the games of 2020

3. Polo

Polo has been featured in five editions of the Games (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936). Still, after those five times, it was eliminated from the contest. Fortunately, the same didn’t happen with other equestrian sports, such as equestrian jumps or training.

4. Baseball

Baseball is a great example of another sport that was Olympic for a short time, before being banned from the Games. It featured in the Games held in Barcelona 1992 and Beijing 2008. Negotiations continue for baseball to be reinserted in the Games. For the time being, it will return in Tokyo 2020, although it’s not known for how long.

5. Rugby, the most eye-catching non-Olympic sport

It’s one of the most curious cases of non-Olympic sports. Included in Paris, 1900, it was the sport with the highest audience attendance. Also, rugby was featured in the games of 1908, 1920 and 1924, but since then it’s returning hasn’t been accepted.

Among the sports that don’t belong to the Games just yet are American football, billiards, skating, surfing, and futsal. Other ones are sumo, skating, motorboat racing, cricket, and golf.

What requirements does a sport have to fulfill in order to be considered Olympic?

To be considered as such, it’s not enough for a sport to be practiced in the organizing country, nor have thousands of followers around the world. It’s also not enough to have participating athletes of all ages. The requirements of the International Olympic Committee to approve a sport as Olympic (or take it to review) are:

1. Be supported by an international federation

In addition, this association must comply with the regulations of the Olympic Charter and apply the World Anti-Doping Code. The first one has 110 pages, in which all of the rules for the disciplines, the organization of the games and the athletes conform.

Meanwhile, the WADA establishes rules on prohibited substances, which athletes cannot consume before, during or after competing.

2. Be widely practiced

Of course, there’s a minimum of countries in which the sport must be practiced in order to be Olympic. As it is, a sport should be practiced in 75 countries on four continents of male sports presence. For female sports, it must be practiced in 40 countries on three continents.

olympic games tokyo 2020

3. Comply with specific criteria

The International Olympic Committee obliges sports to comply with certain codes of ethics, gender equality, funding, information coverage, athletes’ age, and strategic plans.

4. All Olympic sports must be approved by a vote

A sport can be presented as a candidate for the Olympics several times until it receives approval. To receive approval, the executive council of the International Olympic Committee has to vote three years in advance in relation to the next Olympic game.

This means that sports that haven’t been approved in 2017 will not be present in the Tokyo 2020 edition. These have the possibility of being elected until 2021 for their participation in Paris 2024.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.