Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Football remains an Olympic long shot

Giant Olympic Rings, measuring 11m high

Giant Olympic Rings, measuring 11m high and 25m wide, are launched on a barge onto the River Thames, in London, on February 28, 2012, as organisers celebrate 150 days to go until the start of the 2012 London Olympics. In the background is London’s Tower Bridge. AFP PHOTO/MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)


With the Olympics getting started in the same week NFL training camps are opening, hardcore football fans have no real reason to pay attention to the Olympics (despite their presence on NBC), because football isn’t part of the Olympics.

The question is whether that ever will change.

We’ve addressed the issue from time to time over the years. The primary challenge flows from the notion that not enough countries play the game. In a brand-new article, Albert Breer of NFL Network cites an unnamed Olympics source who says it’s “not even in the realm of possibility,” due to among other things American domination.

But USA Football executive director Scott Hallenback explains that the International Federation of American Football has satisfied a pair of Olympic requirements. The sport now has 50 worldwide federals and at least one on each continent. (At least the Antarctica teams can boast that they use “frozen tundra” every single time they play.)

The IFAF also has applied for recognition with the International Olympic Committee; per Breer, a decision is expected by the end of the year.

As Alex Marvez of explained last month, IOC approval could be derailed by the ongoing absence of HGH testing.

“It directly hurts us,” IFAF president Tommy Wiking told Marvez. “You can’t think the IOC doesn’t know what happening. They know exactly what’s happening. They would like to see [testing] in all sports in the US.”

Even if HGH testing is implemented (more on that later), IOC recognition would simply be another step in the process. Before landing in the Olympics, football would appear in international competitions likes the Commonwealth Games and the Pan-American Games.

Even then, football needs to be played in enough countries both by men and women in order to gain full acceptance into the Olympic community.

There could be good news via a recent loss by the United States to Canada in the U-19 IFAF World Championship. That development comes a year after a team of U.S. unknowns tattooed Canada 50-7 in the finals of the adult version of the world-title event. The progress shown by a non-American team shows that other countries may be getting better at “our” brand of football.

Before any real strides can be made, the NFL needs to get behind the effort, fully, completely, and overtly. While the league surely supports groups like the IFAF, the NFL rarely is front and center when it comes to the inclusion of football in the Olympics.

Yeah, Peyton Manning has said several years ago he wants to win a gold medal, and Aaron Rodgers has said he’d like to compete in the Olympics. To get football included in the Olympic games, however, the NFL needs to be waving the flag aggressively and unequivocally. Though the league may have some concern about diluting attention to the NFL every four years, especially since the Olympics routinely falls within the window of NFL training camps and the preseason, the goal of converting the NFL from a billion-dollar national business into a trillion-dollar worldwide enterprise would be advanced by the presence of the sport in the games that somehow manage to get using caring every four years about a wide range of sports we otherwise routinely ignore.