Underwater Hockey in the Olympics?

By Zoe Canavan

Representing your country in the sport you love is an incredible achievement and should make you immensely proud. But representing your country at the Olympic Games is a whole different level of achievement. Participating in the Olympics is the highest competitive level for many sports and is the dream for any athlete. Unfortunately for us Underwater Hockey players, the World Championships is the pinnacle of our sport.

Underwater Hockey in the Olympics?

Not to detract from the elite level of competition at the World Championships or the commitment required to participate, but the Olympics is a whole different level. Every four years the world comes together to support their countrymen and to recognise the great sacrifices that sportsmen and women make in order to live their Olympic dream.

During the 2012 Olympics, I continually asked myself and other players: ‘how is UWH not in the Olympics?’ I constantly questioned the placement of particular sports in the Olympics over UWH. With the help of CANAM Underwater Hockey Gear, I asked UWH players across the world for their opinions on what needed to be done in order to get UWH its well-deserved spot in the Olympics. Players had many suggestions, some practical and others simply for a laugh.

In order for a sport to be in the Olympics there are many hoops to jump through. Basically, if it is played across the world with a high level of competitors and public awareness and meets a number of criteria set out by the International Olympic Committee, then a sport may be added to the Olympic programme.

Firstly, and most importantly, the sport must be recognised worldwide and have a high level of participation. A sport has a higher chance of inclusion in the Olympics if the IOC determines it is widely practiced around the world. They determine this through the number of countries and continents that regularly compete. One great suggestion from my online poll was to get all players registering with their federations in order to get official statistics.

The lack of publicity that UWH receives was a hot favourite in my online poll. A suggestion to do this was for countries to push media outlets for more stories to lift awareness. In today’s world there are many different avenues for spreading the word.

To be in the Olympics, the sport must be recognised and have an International Federation which ensures it follows the Olympic Charter. This federation must have the capability of stepping in and overseeing the sport’s Olympics events. Technically speaking, UWH would fall under the ‘Aquatics’ banner at the Olympics so it would be managed by the International Swimming Federation. Therefore the first step seems to be getting UWH under their management.

A significant problem for UWH is the difficulty for spectators. There were many suggestions to make UWH more spectator friendly on the online poll. Improved underwater filming is one of them. The 2012 Olympics had extensive underwater shots in the swimming so it is obviously that being submerged is not a problem in that aspect. There are players across the world that are constantly playing around with different filming techniques. Cameras attached to a player’s mask, fixed cameras in different areas of the pool and even roving cameras are just a few of them.

One of the more impractical, but highly imaginative, suggestions was to have a pool with glass walls. Spectators could surround the pool and get a first-hand view. Combine this with improved camera set-up and UWH instantly becomes something that people can watch.

There were some responses to the online poll that should be noted due to their creativity and the smile they brought. They were: mermaid cheerleaders, an underwater circus show at half time and dolphin referees.

The online poll proved that having UWH as an Olympic sport is a wish of many, if not all, players and there are many ideas of how to make it happen. However, in order for it to truly happen it has to be a worldwide effort. One country cannot do all the leg work. We must work together in order to achieve this goal by encouraging players to register and promoting UWH at every opportunity so that the public can learn to love this crazy sport as much as we do.

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