The Olympic Games is one of the most historic and well-known sporting events in the international calendar, where athletes compete for their country across many different sports.
Surprisingly, there are a large number of very popular sports which are not included in the Olympics, whilst some would argue that some sports that are included do not deserve to be so!
The topic is very hotly debated by enthusiasts of many different sports and for some, it is seen as a right of passage and recognition of their sport’s merits and achievements.
But what about Powerlifting? Is it an Olympic Sport? And does it deserve to be included in the Olympics?
Powerlifting is not currently an Olympic sport, however, it is included in the World Games, a sporting event affiliated with the International Olympic Committee specifically for sports not included in the Olympics.
It is also worth noting that Powerlifting is an event in the Paralympics, specifically the Bench Press, which, alongside the Deadlift and Squat, is one of the big three events in Powerlifting.
So we now know that Powerlifting is not in the Olympics, but why is this, and should it be?
Let’s delve a little deeper!
Why is Powerlifting not an Olympic Sport?
In 2014, The International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) applied to be included in the Olympics, but their application was unfortunately rejected by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) for the following three reasons:
- Gender equality of the board
- Participation in at least 3 multi-sport events
- No sport for all commission
Since then, the IPF has made great strides to improve on these, however, neither the IOC nor the IPF has publicly stated recently why Powerlifting is still not an Olympic Sport, this has of course led to a lot of speculation and hearsay about the reasons.
The truth is, no one except the IOC and the IPF knows why Powerlifting is not in the Olympics, however, there are a few other possible reasons that many believe to be why:
- Powerlifting is still a relatively new sport
- Powerlifting is boring to watch
- It has a history with Performance Enhancing Drugs
- There are too many divisions and rules
- It’s just not popular enough
Powerlifting is Still a Relatively New Sport
Powerlifting has been around since the 1950s, which is a lifetime in most people’s eyes, however as Sports go, it’s still a baby!
There is no specific age requirement to be accepted into the Olympics, however as part of the vetting process, it would be expected that a sport would need to demonstrate a strong, positive history. Presumably, the more years a sport has under its belt, the more evidence it has to draw on.
Powerlifting is Boring to Watch
Many Powerlifters will tell you that Powerlifting is not in the Olympics simply because it is just too boring as a spectator sport! Which makes you wonder why they competeat all if they find it boring!
Granted, to someone who isn’t interested in Powerlifting, it could certainly come across as boring, yet this could be said about any sport really, including some that are already in the Olympics!
As a spectator sport, we could draw a lot of similarities between Powerlifting and Olympic Weightlifting and the two are comparable in how the event is run and broadcast. Based on this, I don’t believe this is a plausible reason.
Powerlifting has a History With Performance Enhancing Drugs
It’s no secret that PEDs are rife in many strength sports, including Powerlifting, and given the importance the IOC places on anti-doping it could be believed that this is a prominent reason for Powerlifting’s exclusion from the Olympic Games.
This will be something that is closely monitored by the IOC too with the Russian Weightlifting team’s ban from the Rio Olympics.
With one Olympic strength sport already in the headlines for doping offenses, would the IOC really want another to worry about?
Credit to the IPF, they are making a serious effort to stamp out doping in Powerlifting, but as with any competitive sport, this is always going to be an uphill battle with athletes always seeking out any edge over the competition they can get.
There are too Many Divisions and Rules
It could be argued that Powerlifting is a little bit fractured. Equipped vs unequipped, a myriad of age and weight categories, many different federations each with their own twist on the rules.
If Powerlifting were to be accepted into the Olympics, the obvious choice would be to adopt IPF rules, but would we see both equipped and unequipped events or just one? Would age classes be removed? There are several factors to consider and debate and perhaps no one has the appetite to define these.
It’s hard to say how Powerlifting might look under the Olympic banner, and this could well be a reason why it’s not yet there.
It’s Just Not Popular Enough
The last possible reason is that Powerlifting is just not a popular enough sport to warrant inclusion in the Olympics.
At the end of the day, the Olympics is a money-making machine and there’s no point in spending money on the logistics, facilities, etc to host a sport that just isn’t bringing a return on that investment.
Like all the points above, this is, of course, just speculation and without seeing the numbers, it’s impossible to tell, really.
Should Powerlifting be in the Olympics?
So we know that Powerlifting isn’t in the Olympics, but does it deserve to be?
As sports go, Powerlifting is about as close to being in the Olympics as it could be. In my opinion, it’s a matter of when not if.
Powerlifters already compete in the World Games and Paralympics and have done for many years. The continued success of the sport in both these events will have not gone unnoticed by the IOC and must surely put Powerlifting in good standing for consideration going forward.
The very fact that I have written this article, and you are reading it also suggests that there’s demand, or at least interest, in Powerlifting being included in the Olympics.
I am, of course, very biased but based on the above factors, I see no reason why Powerlifting shouldn’t be given a shot at the Olympics, but only time will tell.
Sadly, the wait goes on for Powerlifting to become an Olympic sport. There have been official reasons why this is the case and there has been a lot of speculation on top of this.
There is a lot to be hopeful for in the future though. Powerlifting is already in the World Games and Paralympics, which places it about as close to inclusion as could be possible.
With the IPF always working towards this goal, we may well see Powerlifting as an Olympic event. But if it’s not to be, that’s ok too, the sport we all know and love isn’t going anywhere regardless!