Polo’s Olympic Torch Extinguished?
The year was 1982; Prince William was born, also in that same year an idea was born with hopes of getting polo back into the Olympics. That idea was the Federation of International Polo, created with grand expectations that they could do the impossible. Thirty-one years later they have failed to achieve their primary goal and they have proven to the world that it was in deed “impossible”.
Polo is not new at the Olympics. They first played polo in the Paris Olympics in 1900. The sport was dropped from the games in 1948, never to return. In 1996, the IOC voted to make polo a “recognized sport”, which made it eligible for consideration. Seventeen years later nothing has happened.
This lofty goal has been an uphill battle from the beginning. The IOC is now considering elimination of horse related sports claiming they are elitist and too expensive. Golf and rugby have made it onto the list for the 2016 games while the sport of polo was not even considered and things look just as bleak for the 2020 games.
Many believe that the only hope for success must come through the Fédération Equestre Internationale, which governs dressage, jumping and three day eventing. History has proven that the individual polo associations in most countries have failed to cooperate with each other to accomplish very little over the years. To ask them to relinquish their power to the FEI would gain very little internal support. The FIP has also been unsuccessful in establishing a world handicap system along with a uniform set of rules that all countries could compete under.
To further complicate the matter a handicap system does not fit the Olympic ideal and even if it did there would be no team in the world able to compete against Argentina’s 40-goal squad. The United States could field a 30-goal team while England could put together four players at 26 goals. The FIP is also responsible for a world wide 14-goal tournament every three years with the last one played in Argentina in 2011.
To no ones surprise the FIPs mission is anything but a successful endeavor. While they have recently swarmed into China to take advantage of a very generous polo supporter, the fact remains that the FIP is only riding on the coattails of someone else. Many polo observers wonder what the real purpose of the FIP is supposed to be since they have failed, at every level, to even gain a modicum of success toward their stated goals from over thirty years ago.