POLE DANCING has been officially recognised as a proper sport – and now wants to make it into the OLYMPICS.
The fitness activity, which has traditionally been associated with strip clubs, could now be set to be unveiled on the biggest stage in international sport.
9 A pole dancer performs a trick with one arm holding the poleCredit: AFP
Campaigner Katie Coates, 41, finally won her 11-year fight after the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF) confirmed the activity would now be classed as a professional sport last week.
Katie, president of the international pole sports federation (IPSF), is now aiming for it to become a part of the Olympic Games.
She began the long road to getting pole dancing recognised as a sport in 2006, when she started a petition to get it into the Olympics which attracted more than 10,000 signatures.
Katie said: “In the early 2000s people started doing it as fitness and taking away the sex stigma, so no high heels and making it accessible for average people.
“Pole dancing is not like everyone thinks it is, you need to actually watch it to understand.
9 International pole dancing has been ratified as an official sportCredit: International Pole Sports Federation 9 Campaigner Katie Coates has taken a huge step in her 11-year fight to get pole dancing recognised as a sportCredit: International Pole Sports Federation
“Competitions started but they were very amateur, with friends of friends doing the judging. My goal initially was to make it more professional.
“I feel like we have achieved the impossible, everyone told us that we would not be able to get pole dancing recognised as a sport.”
After the success of the petition in 2006, Katie “dropped everything” and began working with the global pole dancing community to turn it into a sport.
In 2009 the international pole sports federation was officially launched, with Katie as the president, and they held their first world championships in 2012 to coincide with the Olympics.
9 A pole dancer clings upside down to the poleCredit: AFP 9 Pole dancing has long been associated with gentlemen’s clubsCredit: Alamy
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- Pole dancing: Could it one day become an Olympic sport?
- Some are pushing for pole dancing to be added to the Olympics as an official sport
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However they found that the process to get pole dancing recognised as a sport by the GAISF was a bit of a “chicken and the egg” situation.
GAISF is the umbrella organisation for all (Olympic and non-Olympic) international sports federations as well as organisers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations.
Other non-traditional sports recognised by the body are cheerleading, powerboating and tug of war.
Katie: “We had to come up with a scoring system, rules and anti-doping process, everything you would associate with a sport like football.
“For the last three years we have been doing anti-doping tests, but this year was the first that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has tested our athletes.
9 A dancer tries an incredible trick with her legs spread outward and upside downCredit: AFP 9 Pole dancing has also had to implement its own doping control standardsCredit: Getty Images
“None of them have failed.
“To officially become a sport you need federations in 40 countries across four continents, and they need to be recognised by the highest sporting body in their countries.
“But most countries won’t recognise the federations unless it is officially a sport. It is a bit of a chicken and the egg situation. There has not been a new sport in 30 years.”
Then GAISF agreed to change the process they use to officially recognise sports, introducing Observer Status which temporarily gives a sport official status for two years.
Katie said: “They have given us a certificate which says we are an official sport, which our federations can take to their sporting body and say look we are a sport.
“We already have 15 federations approved, it will not be a problem to get to 40 in two years.”
9 Pole dancing has traditionally been performed inside strip clubsCredit: Alamy 9 Pole dancing is hoping to get into the OlympicsCredit: Reuters
Looking to the future, Katie hopes that pole sports will become a member of the International Olympic Committee, which they have applied for, and then one day become an Olympic sport.
She said: “Traditional sports are losing popularity, new sports are far more popular with young people.
“The Olympic committee work in eight year cycles, so it won’t be the next Olympics or the one after but who knows. Look at skateboarding, they snuck that in quietly for 2020.”
The president of GAISF, Patrick Baumann, has given pole dancing hope of becoming an Olympic sport in the future by saying that rock climbing and skateboarding’s inclusion in Tokyo games is “evidence that the pathway is there”.
He said: “We warmly welcome our first observers. This is an exciting time for them and for us and we will do everything within our remit to help them realise their full potential as International Federations within the global sport’s family and, one day, maybe become part of the Olympic program.”
For those considering taking up pole dancing, whether male or female, Katie described it as being “not like your traditional sports”.
She said: “It challenges everything. There is an amazing community feeling in the sport, from the grassroots and up.”
The IPSF launched Para Pole last year, so that disabled people can take part in the sport as well.
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Pole dancing: Could it one day become an Olympic sport?
Forty-six pole dancers competed at the first Worlds in 2012; there were 229 in 2017
Could pole dancing become an Olympics sport? It’s not as far-fetched as you might think…
That’s because pole dancing – or pole, as the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) prefers – has been recognised by an international sporting body for the first time.
It has been given “observer status” by the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF) – meaning it is provisionally recognised as a sport.
That is largely the result of a campaign by Katie Coates, a 41-year-old from Hertfordshire, who founded the IPSF and told the Daily Telegraph: “I feel like we have achieved the impossible, everyone told us that we would not be able to get pole dancing recognised as a sport.”
The IPSF emphasises that pole dancing is about “athleticism and technical merit”, in line with “other Olympic standard sports such as gymnastics, diving and ice skating”.
So even though it may be closely associated with strip clubs, a performance does not have to contain an erotic element.
However, there is a big debate within pole dancing about how much it should be separated from its origins.
Pole dancers are split on how much to acknowledge the activity’s origins
In 2015 and 2016 various people who pole dance shared photos on Instagram using the hashtag #Notastripper – something that some strippers objected to, both because they perceived it as stigmatising sex workers and because they feel pole dancing is an art form they invented.
Pole’s authorities argue that it is not only a sport, but that it is a sport appropriate for all ages and audiences. The IPSF runs competitions for ages from 10 to 65.
But does a broad, global public agree? Olympic authorities may decide it would be more controversial than it is worth.
Before we get to that point though, there are other considerations.
A sport can only become eligible for Olympic consideration if it meets three key criteria.
- It must be signed up to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which pole is
- It must be a full member of the GAISF, which pole is now working towards
- And it must have 50 national federations
At the moment, pole dancing has around 20.
The GAISF recognition lends weight to IPSF’s application for membership of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – while pole dancing’s equivalent body in the UK, the British Federation for Pole Dancing, can now apply for national sports recognition through the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport.
And a bit of perspective can be gained by looking at what other bodies were given observer status by GAISF – among them the World Armwrestling Federation, the World Dodgeball Association, the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting and the International Table Soccer Federation.
So there is still a long, long way to go.
Know your pole
- The World Pole Sports Championships is in its sixth year
- Judging is split into four categories: flow; compulsory moves; creativity and deductions
- There are 11 required moves in a pole dance, but points are awarded for creative ways of linking them
- 46 pole dancers competed at the first Worlds in 2012; there were 229 in 2017
- Five men competed at the first Worlds in 2012; there were 40 in 2017
- All but three pole sport federations are run by women
- 3,000 athletes compete at pole sports during a yearly cycle
Pole dancing is big in South America, but needs more federations to move to the next level
Gentlemen! I have wonderful news that I know you’re going to want to hear: As of early this month, the Global Association of International Sports Federation granted pole dancing “observer status,” meaning it’s officially recognized as a sport! Woohoo!
I’m sure pole-dancing women everywhere are overjoyed, because they know for a fact that it takes a shit ton of coordination, strength, and skill to spin around a pole with a single arm and hang upside down and still manage to look insanely hot.
I’m also certain dudes are also very happy about this, because pole dancing is definitely the sexiest sport ever invented. A true delight to watch. Absolutely phenomenal.
And you know what that means, right? It means pole dancing is one step closer to qualifying as an Olympic sport! That’s incredible news, and means we might see beautiful women grip shiny stripper poles with their sexy, muscular thighs and swing around like it’s no big deal in the Olympics very soon.
“Observer status is the first step international federations must achieve before becoming full GAISF members, which serves as a great boost for any sport hoping to one day land in the Olympics,” The Washington Post says.
Katie Coates, president of the International Pole Sports Federation, told the Telegraph: “I feel like we have achieved the impossible. Everyone told us that we would not be able to get pole-dancing recognized as a sport.”
We’re making progress in the right direction, my friends. Let’s all celebrate the good news with this unreal pole-dancing video:
Some are pushing for pole dancing to be added to the Olympics as an official sport
Editor’s Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at [email protected] See more 360 stories here.
DENVER — A pole dancing convention took over part of the Westin Westminster over the weekend, drawing in hundreds of participants from across the country and around the world.
PoleCon features competitions, exhibitions and workshops for a sport that was once in the fringes but is now moving mainstream. There are now fitness classes in studios across the country as well as international competitions.
For years, some pole dancing organizations have been pushing for the sport to be added to the Olympics. However, not everyone agrees with the move.
How to join the Olympics
Adding a sport to the Olympic games is a long and complicated process. For most sports, it takes years of earning international recognition and overcoming hurdles to prove itself worthy of an Olympic bid.
“Getting into the Olympics is a huge production. It’s a huge deal, it involves layers and layers and layers of review and study, commissions, committees,” said Alan Abrahamson, a sports columnist who has covered the Olympics for the LA Times, NBC Sports and 3wiresports for 20 years.
Currently, there are 28 sports in the Summer Games and close to 11,000 athletes expected to compete in 2020. The sports that will be included in the 2020 Games have already been set.
Surfing, skateboarding and rock climbing are three of the most recent sports to be added to the Olympics. Numerous others, like squash, are still in the process of being considered.
“To get in it requires appeal to the International Olympic Committee’s target group, which is teenagers and young 20-somethings and that’s why surfing is in and squash is not,” Abrahamson said.
Breakdancing, meanwhile, is being fast-tracked due to its popularity in the 2018 youth Olympics and could end up in the 2024 Games.
In 2017, pole dancing passed its first big test into a possible Olympics bid when it was granted observer status from the Global Association of International Sports Federations. The year before, the organization behind the push submitted its application to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for recognition.
It is now working on adding more federations in countries around the world to prove it has a broad, international appeal. It is also working on earning recognition from other sports organizations. However, there is still a long way to go before the sport could end up in the Olympics.
Pushing for pole sports
For some in the pole dancing community, the push to add the sport to the Olympic Games is long overdue.
Groups like the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) have worked for years to not only legitimize the sport but to come up with a strict set of rules and point system to govern it.
In the end, the IPSF came up with a 147-page book laying out the rules for everything from singles and doubles competitions to choreography presentations to anti-doping policies.
IPSF is now one of the main driving forces behind the sport’s Olympics push.
“It could happen in my lifetime,” said Colleen Jolly, the CEO and owner of the International Pole Convention.
Jolly says pole dancing takes a certain amount of athleticism that many people don’t tend to associate with the sport.
“It’s absolutely demanding,” Jolly said. “We have folks who come from a gymnastics and dance background and what they bring to this is all of that hard-core training.”
There are also many different facets for pole dancing. Some see it as a sport where fitness and strength are key. Others see it as an artistic expression.
“The pole community is surprisingly diverse,” she said.
Jolly sees it as similar to snowboarding, when the half-pipe was introduced into the Winter Olympics since there are so many variations and opportunities to make up new styles or moves.
“It kept evolving and evolving and evolving and I think we’re seeing that here. There’s just one million different things that you can do with the pole,” Jolly said.
It also has a broad application, not only for female competitors, but men, the youth and those with disabilities.
“We had a disabled pole dancer show case, we call it para pole,” Jolly said.
If pole dancing does eventually end up in the Olympics, Jolly hopes it will help de-stigmatize the sport and the negative connotations associated with it. She’s also hoping it will inspire more people to try pole dancing.
“It’s not just about having an event in a competition, for right now it’s about getting the next generation of people involved,” she said.
While some pole dancers are hopeful the sport will end up in the Olympics, others would prefer for it to stay out of the mainstream.
“I would not like to see pole go to the Olympics myself,” said Nia Burks. The owner of Butter and Filth pole studio.
Burks is a former stripper who started pole dancing in 2001 mainly as a way to earn money.
“At the clubs, it was strictly business, entertainment, working for men, for money, with absolutely no concern on my end for athleticism or art for that matter,” she said. “Stripping took a lot from me.”
For years, like much of society, Burks associated pole dancing with something too taboo to talk about.
“I think that it can be a tool that represents negativity in a culture in the way that sex and commerce interact in sex work,” she said.
It was only after she retired that Burks started to see a more artistic, sports-based side of pole dancing. She was invited to attend a pole fitness class and eventually became an instructor and owner of her own studio.
“Because it was so deeply ingrained in the strip club world, I had no idea that anyone would ever touch a pole because they wanted to, that was unfathomable to me,” Burks said.
These days, she considers herself an artist who uses pole dancing as a form of creative expression and healing. That’s the same reason she doesn’t want to see pole dancing become an Olympic sport.
One of Burks’ favorite aspects of pole dancing is the fact that there aren’t rules governing how she can express herself. She worries that adding it to the Games would water it down to a sport that’s more about science then style and self-expression.
“The more athletic, the more masculine, the more regimented we make it, the less we make it about women, their empowerment, femininity and their feelings,” she said.
She also doesn’t like the idea of a point-based system to rank the dancers.
“Compulsory angle point systems, if they were applied, what would happen to the soul (of pole dancing)?” she wondered.
Pole dancing predicament
As a longtime Olympics columnist, however, Abrahamson does not believe pole dancing has a chance of ever being incorporated.
“Pole dancing’s chances of being admitted into the Olympics or somewhere between zero and none,” Abrahamson said. “It’s not going to happen.”
In an op-ed published on his sports website, Abrahamson laid out a myriad of reasons for why he doesn’t think it stands a chance.
Abrahamson doesn’t doubt the athleticism of the sport or the rigors it takes to perform. However, he says that is not the only consideration for what is accepted by the IOC.
“That in and of itself is no reason to be admitted into the Olympic Games. I would bet way, way, way more money on the chances of e-sports being admitted into the Olympic Games, in which there is thousands of times less athleticism,” he said.
A much bigger factor into which sports are added is the perception surrounding it.
“To say that there are a bunch of stereotypes around pole dancing would be kind,” he said.
Because there is still an element of sexuality associated with the sport, he doubts pole dancing will ever be able to shed its strip club image enough to be seriously considered.
Beyond that, the Olympics is working on its image in the wake of the #MeToo movement and previous scandals, like the sexual abuse of American gymnasts by a trainer.
“The IOC is very sensitive to public opinion at a time when it is trying to be a forceful advocate for gender equality,” he said.
Abrahamson doesn’t believe adding pole dancing as a sport would help with that advocacy effort.
He’s also not convinced there is a broad enough international appeal or enough proof that men are interested in participating in the sport for it to be a serious Olympic contender.
Exposure is enough
While some groups continue to push for pole dancing’s inclusion, others say the exposure the Olympic bid itself is creating is enough.
“We’ve been so underground for so long that I think even the road to the Olympics and getting that attention on pole dancing as a thing is really good for us,” said Amy Guion. “Whether we get there or not, I don’t actually think it matters all that much. It’s really the attention that journey is drawing to the industry.”
Guion has been a pole dancer for 12 years and says she first tried it as a joke for her birthday. After her first class, though, she started to see the possibilities. She is now the president of the Pole Sports Organization. Guion sees it as an art and likes the freedom it offers.
“I grew up doing ballet very seriously and ballet is very structured, so you have choreography that’s given to you, there’s a format, there’s a technique,” Guion said. “With pole dancing, when I went to my first class they were like, ‘Oh we’re going to do it freestyle.’”
She sees it as something similar to figure skating where there are technical marks to meet with artistic stylings. For her, the storytelling aspect is the most important part.
Guion believes society still has a long way to go to accepting pole dancing as a serious sport and part of that has to do with how it sees sexuality.
“I don’t think that’s very accepted in our culture for a woman to be sexy and have ownership of her own energy in that way,” she said.
In the end, pole dancing still has a long way to go before it could end up in the Olympics. However, advocates say they aren’t going to give up no matter how long it takes.
For now, pole dancers will compete in smaller events like the PoleCon that happened in Denver and try to spread awareness about what the sport has to offer.
Pole dancing, table soccer and poker to become Olympic sports?
Pole dancing isn’t just for gentlemen’s clubs, because it could become an Olympic sport. The global association of international sports federation gave pole dancing
Poker, foosball and pole dancing. What do these things have in common?
Well, besides being reasonable activities for a night out in Atlantic City, officials who help prepare specific sports for Olympic recognition apparently think they could soon take their place alongside running, gymnastics and ski jumping in the world’s most prestigious athletic competition.
The Switzerland-based Global Association of International Sports Federations earlier this month granted observer status to the International Federation of (Match) Poker, the International Pole Sports Federation and International Table Soccer Federation along with the organizing bodies for four other nontraditional sports — the first step toward joining the Olympic program.
“We warmly welcome our first Observers,” Patrick Baumann, the president of GAISF, said in a statement. “This is an exciting time for them and for us and we will do everything within our remit to help them realize their full potential as International Federations within the global sport’s family and, one day, maybe become part of the Olympic program.”
Baumann added: “The new sports debuting at Tokyo 2020 and at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics are evidence that the pathway is there.”
Joining the program in Tokyo in two years will be softball, karate, surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and baseball — the games’ second shot at Olympic status. These sports were chosen, especially skateboarding and sport climbing, in part to reflect the changing interest in younger athletes and the worldwide popularity of these sports.
“Through these additional events, the Tokyo 2020 Games aims to inspire new generations and become a turning point and a model for future Olympic Games,” Yoshiro Mori, the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, said in a statement.
But pole dancing, foosball, aka “table soccer,” and poker?
These barroom pursuits, along with dodgeball, foot golf, kettlebell lifting and the previously mentioned sports, now all have the same status as sports like baseball and surfing once had.
Under the GAISF, observer status allows new sport to grow its base while being guided by the federation toward the requirements of membership, such as receiving the required recognitions by National Olympic Committees, increasing their membership and becoming compliant with the regulations of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
2016 Rio Olympics – Athletics – Final – Women’s Pole Vault Final – Olympic Stadium – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 19/08/2016. Sandi Morris (USA) of USA competes. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. – RIOEC8K06HWSQ
And for aspiring poker Olympians, don’t worry, cigarettes and watered-down cocktails are so far not on the list of banned “performance-enhancing drugs.”
So now that they’ve taken the first steps toward Olympic gold, when – or, more importantly, will – these sports make their debuts in the Olympics?
Before anything else happens, the sport needs to be practiced by men in 75 countries on four continents and by women in 40 countries on three continents be considered for the Olympics.
So the men’s division of pole dancing – surely equality demands that there be a men’s division – may run into some issues there.
Besides these stipulations, poker may face the same challenge imposed on chess by the International Olympic Committee with its ban on purely “mind sports.”
And even if dodgeball, foot golf, kettleball lifting, table soccer and arm wrestling can pass these tests, the IOC has worked in recent years to manage the scope of the games by only permitting new sports to join when others are discontinued. Meaning that these athletes might have to wait for sports like curling and table tennis to go the way of tug-of-war and water skiing.