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Carom Billiard - 3-Cushion - Bert's column (NED)

Will billiards ever be Olympic?

Posted by on July 27, 2017

Will billiards ever be Olympic?

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The World Games in Wroclaw, Poland are a great tournament, and the list of past  medalists proves that you can't win there unless you are top class.

Akita 2001: 1) Sánchez  2) Jaspers 3) Sang Lee

Duisburg 2005: 1) Sánchez  2) Jaspers 3) Sayginer

Kaohsiung 2009: 1) Jaspers 2) Blomdahl 3) Zanetti

Cali 2013: 1) Zanetti 2) Merckx 3) Hofman

But still...

I hope you don't mind my saying this, but it does feel like a consolation prize, doesn't it? When we were twelve and it was Christmas, we did not want that sweater. We wanted a bike. Now we are grown up men with cues, and we like the World Games. But we would have preferred the Olympics. 

Billiards has fought that good fight for half a century now, and a victory is not even on the horizon. We may never get there. Here's what happened:

As far back as the 1950's, it was obvious that fragmented bids to the IOC would have no chance, and only firm cooperation between the major cue sports snooker, pool and carom billiards could possibly get us into the Olympic family. An umbrella organization would be needed to represent all three global federations, and - mostly thanks to the hard work of Mr. Andre Gagnaux, former UMB president, the WCBS was founded in 1992.

The World Confederation of Billiard Sports still exists, but we are no closer to seeing a cueist holding a gold medal. Our representatives did win the opening battle: billiards is a sport. The acceptance of the WCBS into the GAISF, the General Association of International Sports Federations was proof of that. But being a legitimate sport (not a game!) is just the first item on the IOC's list of demands. They want to see, amongst other things, global uniformity of rules and formats, federations in a sufficient number of countries and acceptance  of WADA oversight. 

We can do all that, right? We already have doping checks, even whereabouts checks for the top players. We have a confederation on every continent except Australia, and 59 national federations with UMB membership. (There are 195 countries in the world. We'll survive without Equatorial Guinea and Tajikistan, but can we win China as a member, please?). Just so you know, there's a bit of work left on that first item on the list: uniformity of rules and formats. You may think that starting with the yellow ball or the white is no big deal, or an equalizing inning in a match to 40, yes or no, but small details could actually get in the way of IOC recognition.

Then there is the problem of the massive size and scope of the Olympics. To protect its very existence, further growth of the mega-event had to be curtailed. New sports will only be added if and when other sports lose their place, by recommendation from a designated organizing city, or on a trial basis. As we speak, IOC observers are present in Wroclaw, to keep a critical eye on the events of those sports that have applied for Olympic status. Billiards is one of those.  

I asked around a bit, and found that most 3-cushion players do not believe we will ever be an Olympic sport. We are simply too small. We don't have the numbers. Not enough players, not enough commercial interest, not enough TV-time. (Not enough money to bribe IOC members, said one very sarcastic player.)

Yes, we are a very small sport. But there is some good news, if you insist on a glass that's half full:

- Our siblings are doing well. Pool has that fantastic annual event, the Mosconi Cup (the equivalent of the Ryder Cup, where Europe takes on the USA), and it generates more publicity than any 3-cushion tournament ever has. Snooker is in a tremendous upswing now that it has broken into the Chinese market. Three-cushion billiards could ride the coattails of those two, and if it sees half a chance, it should.

- Billiards in Europe is in tough weather: more existing rooms close than there are new rooms opening, and the average age of the players keeps going up. But look at the global picture, and the positive developments in Colombia, Turkey, Korea and Vietnam more than make up for it. These countries do not only produce good players, they also help the billiards economy to grow. 

It will surprise nobody that in my opinion, 3-cushion is a uniquely beautiful sport to play, to watch, to stream online or broadcast on TV, that it has history, emotion, sportsmanship and class. It is truly deserving of Olympic recognition. I would want to see it happen, for the players most of all.

Remember that cool, graceful, introverted girl by the name of Steffi in 1988? She won four majors with merely a smile or a fist pump that year, and broke down in tears when she won the Olympics.   

Fingers crossed, people. 


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My Comments

Gilbert Najm.
Gilbert Najm.
Thank for the info!

Staying positive does helps, I'm big fan of 3 cushion Billiards.
We are getting closer to the reality of our sports, we have good people like you telling realities and truth that was manipulated 40'years ago.

More good people would definetly help the sport!

Give people chances, some are capable of running businesses with millions of $, don't take things for granted, we are on the right track.

Be honest !

Message 1/1 - Publish at July 27, 2017 4:48 AM

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