|Posted by Evan Perperis on June 1, 2021 at 4:50 PM|
If you are a follower of our website, chances are every four year when they announce the new Olympic sports you do a quick check to see if Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) made the cut. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they weren’t on the list for Tokyo Games (originally scheduled for 2020) or the Paris games in 2024. However, there was another “sport” that was on there that may have surprised you, break dancing. Yeah, that’s right breakdancing made the cut but OCR didn’t, here’s some thoughts on why that might be:
1) The Olympics is a business: Ready for me to ruin your idealized version of the sporting world? I think many people see the NFL and MLB as businesses, but so is the Olympics. They have just done a really good job of marketing themselves to be an idealistic version of athletics. At the end of the day though, the Olympics is trying to make money and they think breakdancing will bring in more money than OCR.
2) Breakdancing is more interesting to watch: As we just covered, with the Olympics being a business they are trying to get the most number of people watching their program. This way they can sell more tickets to live events and get better television coverage thus get high paying sponsors/commercials. As an OCR athlete, I’ll admit it, watching someone breakdance for a couple of minutes is more interesting than someone running hard and climbing over things for an hour or more.
3) Breakdancing is cost efficient: How much does it cost to build an OCR course? I don’t know, it is a lot though because not only do you have to assemble the obstacles, you need to groom the trail and mark the course. That’s lots of people doing lots of work. Compare that to the cost of building a dance floor and breakdancing gets another point.
4) Breakdancing is space efficient: The shortest OCR courses are about 100m but typically most are 5k to 10k in length. At the far end of the spectrum they are 13-26 mile courses. Compare this to a breakdancing area, which requires a small stage/space to perform. Jumping back to cost efficiency, the same space can be used for other small athletic events. Rather than building a completely new and highly specialized facility for an event, you can essentially use a pre-existing space. All you need to do is schedule out a block of time and put down the dance floor/stage or whatever the term is for their performance space.
5) Breakdancing is comparable on opposite sides of the world: You can video tape a breakdancing competition and have judges identify who is the best. Compare that to OCR where it is hard to tell if one course is harder than another. Factors like weather, elevation, technical terrain, a muddy course, variability in obstacles and number of obstacles are just some of the factors. Personally, I think those things make OCR more interesting than other sports by adding variability but it also means it’s hard to compare times/performances. You can fix this by running OCR on a track with obstacles (similar to steeple chase), but again we run into cost and space efficiency challenges.
Will we ever see OCR in the Olympics? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell. Regardless the sport is still very young and still hasn’t hit 10 year of championships (Spartan’s World Championship and World’s Toughest Mudder was supposed to be in 2020, while OCR World Championship was supposed to hold their 7th in 2020).
To make it to the Olympics we will likely have to do things like standardize obstacles, course length, elevation and running surface, all which take away from the uniqueness of our sport. However, you can still have an Olympic version of OCR and a crazy original version kind of like how triathlon has an Olympic distance event or strength sports have Olympic lifting but also crazy stuff like strongman competitions. Perhaps we don’t belong in the Olympics anyway and focus ourselves on another international sports competition with medals like the X Games. Whatever the future holds, I look forward to seeing when, how and why our sport transforms.