Kabaddi world cup is underway in Ahmadabad with 12 countries vying for the Holy Grail. Since its first edition in 2004 it has seen seven successful occurrences.
At international level Kabaddi is regulated by the International Kabaddi Federation (IKF) which was formed in 2004. For quite some time IKF has been making serious efforts to get the sport included in the Olympic. With 32 national bodies affiliated to it, IKF is required to meet the minimum requirement of getting at least 50 countries affiliated, to press for introduction of the sport in the Olympic.
In 2012, Kabaddi was close to the inclusion when it was identified by International Olympic Committee (IOC) among eight disciplines as possible contender for two new disciplines to be introduced in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic but it could not make through it.
REQUIREMENTS FOR INCLUSION INTO THE OLYMPICS
First requirement for a sport to get inducted into the Olympic movement is to have a recognised international federation for that sport. To get the recognition an International Federation (IF) have to answer the IOC on hundreds of questions ranging from global participation, interest in the public to the coverage in the media and business model of organizing the events of the particular sport.
After this the concerned IF prepares a proposal with the help of Olympic programme commission for consideration before the IOC executive board. Olympic programme commission consists of IOC members, representatives of national Olympic bodies, IFs and athletes. Its job is to examine the ‘value’ of the sport to the Olympic brand and mission. However, the real task lies ahead.
After approval by the executive board it needs to muster the approval from entire IOC members. Olympic programme commission evaluates the proposal under five heads‑Olympic proposals, institutional conditions, value added to the Olympic movement, popularity and business model. These five heads further split into around 30 categories.
Appeal of sport to the youth around the world, participation of men and women across the globe and the business aspect viz.‑number of visitors, buzz in the media, broadcasting rights and sponsorships are dominant considerations for inclusion.
To make their claim stronger IFs exhaust big chunk of resources in lobbying. IFs lobby the continental general assembly organised by the Association for the national Olympic committees (ANOC).
There are five continental associations on earth which provide affiliation to national Olympic committee (NOC) in a country. However, still the lobbying does not guarantee the acceptance of proposal since it is ultimately for the IOC members to decide. Besides, IOC governance and ethics rules prohibit the direct lobbying to IOC members.
Conspicuously, the whole process to get the nod for inclusion reeks of eccentricity as lobbying in the continental assembly cannot guarantee the induction.
CASE FOR KABADDI
In 2013 IOC had recommended dropping wrestling from 2020 and 2024 Olympics. However, it was subsequently voted back to be retained in the Olympic. Dropping of Wrestling raised the hope for the inclusion of Kabaddi.
Kabaddi is hugely popular in south Asia. With four seasons Pro Kabaddi League in India, under the aegis of IKF, it is giving a tough fight to other sports with larger following and sponsors. First three sessions of the league witnessed continued rise in its viewership making it the only Indian domestic league to achieve this feat.
Despite its huge popularity in south Asia and also gaining some ground in few western countries like Australia, England, Poland and America, Kabaddi has a long way to go before getting into the Olympic. It has to be widely practiced in at least 75 countries and spread over four continents.
For Tokyo 2020 Olympic 26 different international federations had applied for inclusion. Of which only Baseball/Softball, Sports Climbing, Surfing, Karate and Skateboard got the call. Much spotlight was placed on youth appeal for the inclusion of new sports in the Tokyo edition. Yet while deciding the popularity of any sport, promotion and appeal among the youth take the backseat to the TV consumerism‐that is broadcasting rights, sponsors and appeal in the media. Remember how Squash lost its bid to Rugby sevens for birth in Rio edition?