clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Tug-of-War is up for inclusion in the Olympics. PUT TUG-OF-WAR IN THE OLYMPICS

Let's be honest: You would watch Olympic Tug-of-War. Make it happen, IOC.

David Rogers/Getty Images

A full 26 sports have applied to the IOC for inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics program. The list of events is pretty varied: from water sports (surfing, waterskiing) to table sports (chess, bridge,) from sports we're familiar with (American football, baseball/softball) to sports other cultures are familiar with (wushu, netball,) from rich people sports (polo, squash,) to sports with broader appeal (flying disc -- frisbee -- bowling.) The whole list is here, ranked.

However, one sport clearly stands above the rest. That sport is Tug-of-War. The Tug of War International Federation (TWIF) -- which is a real thing, apparently -- decided they were tired of not being included in the world's largest international sports competition, and filed to be included.

1. The Olympics should have more sports, not less sports

The biggest and most reasonable explanation for why Tug-of-War should not be in the Olympics is that if it were added, the Olympics would have to get rid of another perfectly deserving sport. The IOC previously had a strict limit of 28 sports per event, which it has dropped, but there is still a has cap on the total of medal events (310) and participants (10,500.) If gold medals in Tug-of-War were provided, somebody wouldn't be allowed to play.

I disagree with this entire dang concept. I think the Olympics should feature competition of every dang sport, so we can find out once-and-for-all who is the best at everything. Put all 26 of these sports in. Find a way.

Oh, I hear you whining about how the Olympics already leads to the building of unnecessary amounts of stadiums which quickly go unused and turn into expensive white elephants. Well, y'all don't need to build a $700 million Tug-of-War Dome for Tug-of-War. You can hold it at a local high school gym or in a random field with some bleachers. Cut down on the billions of dollars in wasteful civic expenses and just play sports wherever sports can be played instead of gunning for pomp. We will watch them.

2. Tug-of-War has a rich Olympic tradition

You might think seems lowbrow to have Tug-of-War at the Olympics. Why should Tug-of-War, a game best intended for kids at camp and maybe cocky drunk people at cookouts. This isn't a serious sport? How does it belong in the Olympics, alongside all the sports we associate with the Olympics, like archery and diving and weightlifting and all those other sports?

But Tug-of-War is actually one of the oldest Olympic sports. It was contested at the 1900 Olympics and every Olympiad through 1920, when it was discontinued. Back then, they considered it part of the track-and-field competitions, for some reason.

Those other sports I said are all technically newer than Tug-of-War. Diving was introduced in 1904. Weightlifting was in the 1896 games, but wasn't regularly contested until 1920. And archery was introduced in the same year as Tug-of-War, but then took a long break from the program before being reintroduced in 1972.

The Olympic docket features a randomly varying group of sports, and the sports currently contested only seem like the sports that belong in the Olympics because they are currently in the Olympics. Basketball was barely invented when the Olympics were founded in 1896, now we could barely imagine the Olympics without it. Table tennis has successfully bridged the gap between "a game that seems too much like a kids' game for the Olympics" and "an awesome sport we watch at the Olympics" in under 30 years. Tug-of-War could do the same thing.

3. Anybody can play Tug-of-War

The Olympics is hypothetically supposed to promote sports that have global appeal, for both genders. Well, here are the list of requirements needed to play Tug-of-War:

1. A rope

2. A line somewhere

3. People

You don't have to be a boy to play Tug-of-War. You don't have to be rich to play Tug-of-War. You don't have to be cool to rule the Tug-of-War world. Tug-of-War is a game of the people.


Team USA ranks second all-time in Tug-of-War medals. There were only 13 Tug-of-War medals awarded, and three of them were won by the USA.

There's a catch: All three were at the 1904 Summer Olympics, held in the USA, where Americans swept the podium. This is kind of a theme: Great Britain swept the 1908 Olympics in London, and Sweden took gold at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

But things have changed over the past 100 years: Americans have gotten fatter and better at staying in the same place, two tenets of successful Tug-of-War play.

Our strongest, stubbornest and most stable are on par with anybody in the world.


5. Because I want to see people pulling a dang rope like it's the most important thing in the world with millions of people around the world watching for one of the most prestigious trophies in athletics

Do the right thing, IOC. Do it.