The Next Big Olympic Sport Could be Cheerleading

As the 2020 Olympics gets set to welcome some new sports, including competitive surfing and sport climbing, it naturally gives rise to people wondering, “What next?”

So here’s one possible answer: cheerleading, which took a step closer to Olympic inclusion in December, having gained provisional recognition by the IOC.

According to an article in Inside The Games, the International Cheer Union (ICU), as part of its recognition package, will receive $25,000 in IOC development funding, and could receive additional amounts to spend on anti-doping and other projects.

And while cheer isn’t going to be making an appearance in the Olympics any time soon, recognition is a significant victory for the sport, which has been moving off the sidelines and onto the main stage for several decades.

The U.S., not surprisingly, is a powerhouse for cheer (in fact, it was born here, and the HQ for the ICU is in Memphis, Tennessee.) The 2017 Junior World Cheerleading Championships and World Cheerleading Championships are scheduled to be held will be held from April 26-28, 2017, at the Walt Disney World® Resort in Orlando, Florida (not much is more all-American than that.)

Within the U.S., the sport’s National Governing Body is USA Cheer, the USA Federation for Sport Cheering, and the organization fields multiple teams, including All Girl National Team, Co-Ed Cheer Team and more.

Cheer as a whole consistently ranks in the top 10 of the annual participation survey performed by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Scholarships for cheer are available at the collegiate level as well. And since programs are available scholastically (as part of a school or college) as well as in all-star settings (known as cheer gyms, which are programs not connected to another institution), there is plenty of room for growth in the already popular sport. In addition, because of the presence of unified and inclusive programs for girls with developmental disabilities (one example is The Sparkle Effect), it may be that one day, cheer programs will appear in events such as the Special Olympics. And ultimately, there may be a chance for Paralympic programs because there are already cheer athletes performing with prostheses.

A sport’s provisional membership lasts for up to three years, and it can only be made a full member by an IOC Session – so in Lima in September of 2017 would be the earliest cheer could apply for full acceptance, should its officials feel they are ready. However, not all sports with full Olympic recognition are included in the Games. For example, the International Ski Mountaineering Federation and  the World Flying Disc Federation were fully recognized, but neither sport appears in the Olympics.

On the business side, expect competitive cheer events to grow – and expect suppliers of mats, builders of cheer gyms and more to reap the benefits – should cheer continue to pursue Olympic inclusion.

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