24 October 2023

Lacrosse and flag footy fail the Olympic Games pub test - or do they?

| Jen White
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Hand waving an Olympic flag.

At the end of the day, if you’re dedicated enough to make it to the Olympics you deserve it, regardless of the sport. Photo: Shutterstock.

When I heard the International Olympic Committee had approved the inclusion of lacrosse and flag football for the LA 2028 games, I thought they’d lost the plot.

Squash, baseball/softball and cricket will also be added in LA, although baseball and softball did get a run in Tokyo 2020.

I can understand squash being included considering it’s never had a guernsey at the Games, but I reckon baseball and especially cricket players have plenty of chances to play on the world stage anyway.

At the first Olympic Games in 1896, there were nine sports contested. Since then, sports have been added and dropped and only five have been contested at every summer Olympic Games since 1896 – athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics and swimming.

But back to lacrosse – do you actually know anyone who plays the game? And what the heck is flag football anyway?

I figured a bit of research would prove the IOC’s decision to include the sports was worthy of my derision.

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Convinced that lacrosse was a sport confined to a handful of players who couldn’t decide whether they wanted to play hockey or polo – and therefore must be smug rich bastards as well – I was a little taken aback to discover it’s actually pretty widely played in Australia.

Its history in Australia dates back to the late 1800s, about the same time as Aussie Rules and rugby league. By 1907, the game was being played at the MCG in front of more than 16,000 spectators – figures that some rugby league teams today would kill for. By 1974, lacrosse was being played in every Australian state.

It also turns out that us Aussies are pretty good at it too. The Australian women are the only team ever to beat the US in a senior title game, and the only other team to win the coveted Senior Women’s World Cup, twice (1986 and 2005).

Earlier this year, the Australian Men’s Team came in a credible fourth place in the World Championships behind the US, Canada and the Haudenosaunee (six Native American nations more commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy). Even better, they beat the Poms in the quarter finals.

A junior lacrosse competition was introduced a few years back, and has been boosted by a school program that has been delivered to more than 44,000 students across 530 schools all over Australia.

OK, so the game might be a tad more popular than I thought.

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And it turns out that flag football is pretty much the same as Oztag here in Australia, although because the Yanks invented it, it’s based on American football.

Apparently, it’s played by over 20 million in more than 100 countries, and Australia has a growing juniors competition called NFL Flag which will culminate in the 2023 Australian NFL Flag Football National Championship Tournament on the Gold Coast in November. Teams from each state will compete, with the winner representing Team Australia at the 2024 Pro Bowl in the US.

Hmmm … who’d have thunk it?

But when it comes down to it, if you’re a dedicated athlete who wants to compete against the best of the best, on the world’s biggest sports stage, you’re going to throw everything you’ve got at a chance to represent your country at the Olympics – whether it’s lacrosse or the luge. And you deserve to be there.

The values of the Olympics are all about excellence, respect and friendship, while promoting sport, culture and education with a view to building a better world.

I think we can all agree that building a better world is a prize we would all want to win.

Original Article published by Jen White on Region Illawarra.

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