Why BJJ will never be in the Olympics

Article written by JSHo on the MMA.tv forum

As an Olympic year, the pipedream of BJJ or NoGi making it onto the programme is resurrected, I realised the article i wrote for On The Mat isnt accessible any more so here it is again.

How do the IOC/OPC assess sports?
The Olympic Programme Commission, in their report to the 117th IOC Session (note. That document has moved but here is a link to their subsequent report on the Beijing Olympics) stated that they had developed a set of 33 criteria to be used in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each potential/current Olympic sport and the ‘value’ that each sport adds to the Olympic Programme. (you can read the methodology and the assessments of all Olympic sports in the link above, pretty interesting reading).

The criteria break down into the following categories:
A.   History and Tradition
B.   Universality
C.   Popularity
D.   Image and Environment
E.   Athlete Welfare
F.   Development and Costs.

Each of these areas then has objectively analysed criteria.
A). History and Tradition
•   Date of establishment of the International Federation (IF)

Olympic Games
•   Introduction to the Olympic Programme
•   Number of times on the Olympic Programme (Benchmark “Strong tradition” = 20 participations and more)

World Championships
•   Date of 1st World Championships
•   Number of World Championships held to date
•   Frequency of World Championships

Other Multi-sports Games
•   Is sport on the programme of the last All African Games, Pan-American Games, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games or Universiade?)

Recognised IFs – World Games
•   Number of times on the World Games programme

B). Universality
•   Number of Member National Federations
•   Number of Member National Federations compared to maximum number of NOCs (brackets)

•   Percentage of National Federations that organised national championships in 2003-2004
•   Percentage of National Federations that took part in qualifying events for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games
•   Percentage of National Federations that took part in the last IF Continental Championships
•   Recognised IFs – Percentage of National Federations that tookpart in qualifying events for the World Games 2001

•   Number of medals awarded at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games
•   Number of NOCs that won medals at the Athens 2004 OlympicGames
•   Continental distribution of medals won at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games

C). Popularity
•   Extent to which best athletes would compete

•   Average percentage of the total of number tickets available sold at Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Athens 2004 Olympic Games

•   Average number of media accreditation requests at the last two World Championships

Olympic Games
•   Average number of hours of television coverage per day of competition
•   Average prime time viewers hours per day of competition

World Championships
•   Number of countries where the last two World Championships were broadcast
•   Number of countries that paid for TV rights for the last two World Championships
•   Income from the sale of TV rights for the World Championships

•   Five major sponsors of the IF and kind of benefits provided

D). Image and Environment

•   In the sport Percentage of Member National Federations (corresponding to the number of National Federations affiliated to the IF)that took part in qualifying events for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games: comparison of female VS male participation
•   Recognised IFs – Percentage of Member National Federations (corresponding to the number of National Federations affiliated to the IF) that took part in qualifying events for the World Games 2001: comparison of female VS male participation
•   In the IF governing bodies Composition of Executive Board (or equivalent)

•   Impact of judging on the result of the sport’s competition
•   Judging/refereeing system and steps taken to train,certificate, select and evaluate judges and referees

•   Steps taken by the IF with a view to presenting its sport in the most interesting and attractive manner

•   Existence of an IF’s environmental programme and action plans
•   Impact of the sport on the environment

E). Athlete Welfare

•   Role of athletes in the IF’s global decision-making process,in particular with respect to its Athletes’ Commission

•   Number of out-of-competition tests 2002 and 2003

F-i). Development
•   Existence of a four-year strategic planning process and details

F-ii). Finance
•   Share of the Federation’s income from Olympic revenues (2000-2003)
•   Share of the Federation’s income generated by marketing and broadcasting (2000-2003)
•   Income from the sale of TV rights for the World Championships 2000-2003

•   Summary of the three main development programmes run by the IF between 2001 and 2004
•   Summary of the financial distribution system used by the IF to support its national federations and continental associations

F-iii). Costs
•   Costs for venue to stage event
•   Technology requirements at competition venues
•   Television production cost

Other Considerations

1) Sports ‘recognised’ by the IOC
Some sports and disciplines are not part of the current Olympic program, but are recognized by the IOC. Their respective International Sport Federations are responsible for ensuring that the sport’s activities follow the Olympic Charter.

A recognized sport may be added to the Olympic program in future Games, by recommendation of the IOC Olympic Programme Commission and a vote by IOC members. The IOC voted on July 11, 2005 to remove baseball and softball from the Olympic program for 2012 (reaffirmed by vote on February 9, 2006 ) but also rejected their replacement with karate and squash (selected from a list that also included golf, roller sports and rugby sevens).

Recognised sports include Sumo, Golf, Karate and Polo.

2) The World Games
The World Games, first held in 1981, are an international multi-sport event, meant for sports that are not contested in the Olympic Games. The World Games are organised and governed by the International World Games Association (IWGA), under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Some of the sports that were on the program of the World Games eventually made it as Olympic sports (such as triathlon) or have been Olympic sports in the past (like tug of war). Participation in past World Games is included in the evaluation criteria used to select new Olympic sports adopted by the IOC on August 12, 2004. However, with the current position of the IOC to limit the Olympic Games to 10,500 participants, it is unlikely than many of the World Games sports will be elevated to the Olympic sports.

3) My Observations
Ok then, nice facts and figures, you might be saying but why won’t BJJ or Submission Wrestling ever make it to the Olympics? it is not all bad news, there are some areas where BJJ/Submission Wrestling would score highly in the assessment:
– Best Athletes would compete in the Olympics
– Established World, Brazilian, Pan-American, Pan-Pacific, European, African and Asian Championships (in addition to many smaller tournaments)
– Low Operational Costs
– Low Venue Costs
– Low impact of sport on environment
– Increasing popularity of sport

However there are many areas where the sport(s) would score very poorly and this significantly outweight the positives above:

Not a global sport/Not a well subscribed sport
Outside of Brazil and the United States, although there are thriving BJJ and Sub Wrestling scenes in many countries, the sport is very underdeveloped and the disparity between number of judoka and number of Jitsuka is huge.

Limited media appearances
BJJ and Submission Wrestling appearances are limited to broadcasts over the internet or on small channels such a PremiereCombate in Brazil. There are few mainstream media appearances.

Total Domination of the sport by one country
If BJJ or Sub Wrestling were Olympic sports, Brazil would win ever medal in every category (the only potential exception to this would be in the Women’s dvision). The depth of class and skill in Brazil at all weight categories far exceeds that of its nearest competitor, the United States and to date only 2 non-Brazilians have ever won a Black Belt Adult title at the Mundials

No Anti-Doping policy
Neither the CBJJ, CBJJE, CBJJO nor the ADCC has a drug-testing policy in place.

High impact of judging on the outcome of a match
The assessment of point scoring moves is quite subjective and can significantly affect the outcome of a match.

Judging/Refereeing system has a poor reputation (undergoing refinement at the moment)
Although the CBJJ are planning to introduce mat judges in addition to the actual refereee (as a result of controversial wins for Jacare over Roger gracie in the 2004 and 2005 CBJJ World Championships) the standard of refereeing even at the highest level of competition is very mixed and not of a consistently high standard. The CBJJ have made steps to amend this with 2 additional corner judges for the black belt quarter finals onwards at major tournaments.

No single governing body
There are 2 World Governing bodies for BJJ, which is against IOC Protocol and no genuine World Governing Body for Submission wrestling, however the advent of the World Grappling Committee under the auspices of FILA may change this.

Poor Gender Equity/Women’s BJJ very underdeveloped in comparison
Although improvements have been made in the past few years, the number of elite women grapplers is very low in comparison to elite male grapplers.

Too similar to Wrestling/Judo
Wrestling itself struggles to keep 2 variants at the Olympics, it is unthinkable that there would be 3 (if Sub-Wrestling were introduced). BJJ would also be too similar to Judo in the minds of the general public.

Not Visually appealing enough/poor spectator sport
Although this is generally confined to the lower belts, BJJ and Submission Wrestling are not the most visually appealing fo sports (although this is generally a result of the individuals involved in any match).

Political pull of other Martial Arts
As mentioned above, it is unlikely that other Martial Arts already either in The Olympic Programme or ‘Recognised’ by the IOC would support the inclusion of another Martial Art.

Sports Jiu Jitsu already recognised by IOC/World Games.
The Jiu Jitsu variant Sports Jiu-Jitsu (a cross between Judo and point-scoring Karate) is already recognised by the IOC and appears on the World Games Programme. It is unlikely that the IOC would countenance putting this SJJ on the IOC Programme, let alone recognise a relatively minor variant of it.