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Will Catalonia Kill Olympic Roller Sports?
FIRS, the IOC, and the Catalonian Federation

Guido Ferraiuolo of Argentina made statements on many public message boards in October of 2004 stating that if the Catalonian Roller Sports Federation is recognized by the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will not allow any roller sport to admitted into the Olympic Games.

I am one of Guido's biggest supporters and we are also good friends, but because this is such a significant statement I really need to voice my opinion in a very public way about what he said.

What I Think

Will the IOC Reject Roller Sports if Catalonia is Recognized?
In my opinion, the best way to address this issue is not to quote the opinion of some anonymous, unnamed Olympic Committee member, but instead to ask someone at the International Olympic Committee, who has the authority to do so (for example President Rogge) to publicly and very clearly state that no roller sport will be admitted into the Olympic Games if FIRS recognizes Catalonia as a separate federation with its own team. If Guido's statement is true, it should not be difficult to convince IOC President Rogge, or someone authorized to speak on his behalf, to make a public statement.

FIRS Has Close Ties With the Olympic Committee
Isidro Oliveras, the president of FIRS and many other FIRS officers and committee members have close ties with the International Olympic Committee, including the president of the IOC. I'm sure FIRS officers know better than anyone else what the IOC's opinion is about FIRS recognizing Catalonia as a separate federation with its own team.

Why I Do Not Believe FIRS Will Oppose the IOC
I simply do not believe FIRS would prevent roller sports from getting into the Olympics just so Catalonia can have its own roller hockey team. Here are the reasons I do not believe it:

REASON 1: PUBLIC OPINION - If the IOC told FIRS roller sports would not become Olympic if they recognized Catalonia, and FIRS did it anyway, it would be a very public action that the entire international roller sports community would be aware of. Do you think FIRS does not know that? Of course they do! I am very certain that FIRS representatives have had many discussions with the IOC about Catalonia and I cannot believe FIRS is planning to defy the IOC on this issue.

REASON 2: HARD COLD CASH - If any roller sport becomes an official Olympic event, FIRS and all of the national federations stand to gain a significant increase in funding from the IOC. Even if someone does not believe FIRS is motivated by public opinion, they would surely agree that any organization would appreciate the large increase in income (plus the public recognition and increase in stature) that goes along with becoming an Olympic Sport.

What Should Happen Next?

I hope Guido will tell us who told him roller sports will not be admitted into the Olympic Games if FIRS recognizes Catalonia as a separate federation with its own team. Then I want to hear International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, or someone authorized to speak on his behalf, confirm that person's statement. That would reduce all of the speculation and public condemnation to a simple fact that FIRS can use to make their decision about how to handle the Catalonia issue.

Will Roller Sports Become Olympic?

This is not an easy question to answer.

What is Important to the IOC?
The IOC is talking very publicly about removing minority specialist sports from the Olympics in favor of guaranteed crowd pleasers and sports popular with young people. The questionnaires they sent to the five new sports being considered (golf, rugby, squash, karate and roller sports) included questions such as how many television viewers they attract, how much funding they get from big-name corporate sponsors, and how many spectators typically attend their events. If the IOC gives those factors a a great deal of weight, roller sports will have a problem that is much bigger than whether or not Catalonia is recognized by FIRS.

What About Skateboarding and Inline Stunt?
Here is a new idea that roller sports advocates rarely mention. Has anyone considered that skateboarding and inline trick skating could also be candidates for inclusion in the Olympic games? Artistic, hockey, and speed are not the only roller sports disciplines being seriously considered by the International Olympic Committee...

Articles About Olympic Roller Sports

"Did Roller Skating Miss the Olympic Bus?"
I wrote this article about the possibility of inline skating and other roller sports making it into the Olympics in 2001 after I returned home from visiting the Olympic Committee Headquarters and IOC Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"Game Over for Minor Olympic Events"
According this UK Guardian article by Denis Campbell, golf and rugby are highly likely to make it into the Olympics, karate will probably replace tae kwon do, squash is not likely to replace the current racquet sports (tennis, badminton and table tennis) and roller sports is seen as an outside bet.

What Do You Think?

Visit the Olympic Roller Sports Discussion in the SkateLog forum at AskAboutSkating.com and tell us what you think about the issues raised in this article.

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