Irish dance and the Olympics

I love the Olympics.  There was a point in my life where I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast, and honestly believed I could get there if only I got good enough, and the IOC lowered the age limit like I wrote in my letter to them as a third grade project.  My letter was in vain.  It never happened, I lost interest in gymnastics years later, and now here I am as an Irish dancer.  Over the course of the Olympics, I witnessed just how many Irish dancers wanted our art form to be an Olympic sport.  From twitter to tumblr, dancers everywhere seemed to be clamoring for it, so I sat down, did some research on the Olympic site, read the entire Olympic Charter, and I now bring you the following blog post.  Yes, it's wordy, but less words than the Charter, believe me.

Sport (n):  activities which are based in physical athleticism or physical dexterity.

Let's look first at how a sport becomes "Olympic:"
  • It has to be recognized by an International Federation that makes sure the sport follows the Olympic Charter.
  • It must be widely practiced around the world.
  • It must meet other criteria the International Olympic Committee (IOC) establishes.
If the sport meets all the requirements, the Olympic Program Commission can recommend it be added.  There is no absolute guarantee the sport will become Olympic, though.  There are currently 32 International Federations that the IOC recognizes, but are not part of the Olympics, among them is ballroom dancing.

Looking at the first requirement (International Federation) and it's connection to Irish dance, many ideas already pop into mind.  The Irish dance community has several different dance organizations that could up their ante to meet the IOCs standards.  The organization would have to adopt the World Anti-Doping Code, and generally be responsible for the sport's integrity at the international level.  This requirement appears to be in the bag.

Is Irish dance really that widespread?  Over the years, we have heard of Irish dancers competing for the first time from Mexico and Russia.  Karl Drake and his senior dancers recently traveled around China.  Riverdance is currently touring in South America.  Competitive Irish dance is slowly expanding beyond Ireland, the UK, Australia, and the US.  Will it ever be well-known enough to make it as an Olympic sport? I cannot say for sure, but it truly seems unlikely.  Just take your own personal reactions into account: do the majority of people who you've told you're an Irish dancer know what competitive Irish dancing is?

"But what about having a special sport highlighted but not in the Olympics?" you ask.  The host country used to be able to promote a popular sport in the hosting country, called a demonstration sport.  Conceivably, Irish dance could be one of these if the Olympics were ever held in Ireland (with hurling, cricket or Gaelic football being the more likely choice).  Unfortunately, demonstration sports were eliminated after the 1992 games.

Personally, I think Irish dance is more of an art form and less of what the general public thinks of as an Olympic sport, the same as most dance forms (ballet, tap, contemporary).  I for one do not think it should be included in the Olympics.  Look's like we'll have to stick with being a part of the opening or closing ceremonies should the event ever arise.

Do you think Irish dance should be in the Olympics?

Goals: set up my classrooms
Days till Os: 93


  1. Anonymous7.5.13

    Yes. i think it definitely could be. And really it is fairly wide spread. I believe that Irish dancing is a sport and could be an Olympic Sport.
    A Friend

  2. Mina3.9.13

    Actually Ballroom was done as a demonstration sport in 1996. They were eliminated after that.

    1. The World DanceSport Federation (formerly the International DanceSport Federation) is currently listed under the Association of IOC Recognised International Sports Federation (ARISF). The WDSF has been recognized since the 106th IOC session in 1997.



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