For the past 13 days now I have had my TV going in the background basically all the time. Always covering one thing. The Olympics. I don’t really know why it is that I am so captivated by these games that take place every 2 years, alternating between summer and winter, but I have been captivated from a very young age. As a Canadian who loved the outdoors and skiing, I remember Jean-Luc Brassard was one of the first people that I idolized after his gold medal performance in 1994. Myself and my brothers would always try and recreate his moves and signature jumps as we cruised down the slopes of our local ski hill. These athletes, who often make next to no money from their accomplishments, are national heroes.
While mogul skiing was one of my earliest memories of being in love with the Olympics I know that moguls isn’t one of the classic events that the Olympics holds. The Olympics originally was about who could run the fastest, jump the highest, lift the most, etc. To me it seems quite logical that who can go the deepest should be in the Olympic Games as well. That got me thinking. Why is it that the sport of free diving, which is enjoyed by many, is not an Olympic event. Are the safety issues to great of a risk? Is it that landlocked countries would have to hold the event somewhere else? Is it that it isn’t a great spectator sport for TV? I have looked around the internet and asked around, but I just can’t wrap my head around why it isn’t.
Is It The Safety?
In 2010 in Vancouver a luge competitor was killed when he flew off of the track. In 2014 a track worker seriously injured while not even on the track. In freestyle skiing (an Olympic Event but not during Olympic competition) Sarah Burke and Nick Zoricic both Canadian athletes died while participating in the sport that they loved. Yet freestyle skiing remains. In boxing people get knocked out fairly regularly. In marathons it isn’t that strange to see an athlete pass out in the race or when they pass the finish line. People do get injured in sports and these risks are willingly accepted by the athletes. In free diving, the main concern of note for an event like this would be shallow water black out. Free divers can sometimes “black out” when they are returning to the surface of the water after pushing their body to new limits. If divers are by themselves this is very dangerous and is where most free diving deaths occur. If you are in an Olympic event with safety divers, emergency medical people, safety equipment, doctors, etc. It really limits the risk. Very competitive free diving events already take place around the world all the time. You will be hard pressed to find serious injuries which occur at organized events. For these reasons, I think it is a bit harsh for safety to be the reason behind its exclusion.
So, How About the Geographical Concerns
It’s true that free diving has to be done in the water. Some locations will certainly be better than others as far as competitive free diving is concerned. Having the summer games in London wouldn’t give you the same opportunities as far as free diving as having the games in Rio de Janeiro. The problem I have with this argument is that there are varying conditions all over the world for every sport. Whether it is air quality, temperature, terrain, elevation above sea level, etc. Nothing is ever constant. And the argument people make about excluding certain cities and nations from hosting the games, it doesn’t. Take sailing. It is an Olympic sport where it is necessary to be near the ocean. Somehow they always make do with getting that included in the Olympic Games, regardless of where they are held. So why not free diving?
Is It Not Exciting Enough?
The truth is that it may not be a great spectator sport for live crowds. With modern day television capabilities I think it could be a great sport for TV. Watching a person push themselves to new levels is always interesting to watch. When that involves diving to depths that seem crazy to most people watching I think the audience would buy in. The perceived risk involved as well as the amount of ability that separates the exceptional free diving athletes from the general public is enough that people would be “wowed” by the event.
To me the bottom line is that the Olympics are supposed to be about incredible athletic performances. Who can jump the highest, run the fastest, lift the most, etc. are correctly in the Olympics. There is no way that the sport of free diving should not have its place as an Olympic event.