With all the talk about what will be accepted as the next Olympic sports, it might have been easy to lose sight of this one. But the sport of Ultimate, which has been growing quietly but significantly since its humble beginnings in the late 1960s, just made a huge step this month, becoming officially recognized by the IOC.
That means the sport that was once known as Ultimate Frisbee (before trademark issues came into play) – the sport that started with a bunch of high school students in New Jersey killing time by tossing a flying disc back and forth – has taken one step closer to the big stage. And that just might mean a few more fields being marked for – or even built specifically for – Ultimate.
An Ultimate field, according to USA Ultimate, is 70 yards (64 meters) by 40 yards (37 meters). The exact dimensions and markings can be found here, in the official rules of play. It is already a wildly popular club sport in colleges across the U.S., as well as a fast-growing league pastime nationally, so expect an uptick of interest from universities, as well as park and rec departments.
The sport, which combines the non-stop movement and athletic endurance of soccer with the aerial passing skills of football, has the unique distinction of using self-officiating, even at the highest levels of competition. This concept, called Spirit of the Game, is integrated into the basic philosophy of the sport, written into the rules, and practiced at all levels of the game from local leagues to the World Games. Internationally, the sport is governed by the World Flying Disc Federation.
Acceptance by the IOC is a prerequisite for any potential inclusion in a future Summer Olympic Games. While this by no means guarantees that Ultimate will become an Olympic sport , it does position the sport well if the head of the IOC decides to open the Olympics up to even more sports in the future. Perhaps more important in the short term is the increased likelihood of Ultimate making its way into the Pan Am Games or other major international tournaments. Which, again, means more interest, more players and more facilities.
Since its beginnings, USA Ultimate has been quietly establishing itself as a power in the world of emerging sports. At the end of 2014, the organization moved to Colorado Springs, where many of the national governing bodies are already headquartered.