Olympics — Will Pool Make a Splash?

Billiards Organizers Are Pushing for Inclusion in the 2024 Games

A young woman playing pool.
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Pool players have never had the chance to rack balls, crush a break shot, and vie for medals at the Olympic Games. Billiards have long been considered a game, rather than a sport, by many including the International Olympic Committee, which oversees the quadrennial event. But that may change in the future.

Two of the major bodies that govern billiards in the U.S. and internationally — the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and the World Confederation of Billiards — are pushing to have pool included in the 2024 Olympic Games after being denied a chance to have the sport be part of the 2020 event in Tokyo.

Historic Obstacles

Organizers have been trying to have billiards included in the Olympics since the 1950s but have faced three major obstacles:

  1. Billiards still awaits international recognition as a sport and not just a game — although, ironically, the international sporting event is called the Olympic "Games."
  2. The IOC demanded an international organization to prepare standards and coherence for cue sports. That was accomplished when the WPBSA and WCBS were allowed to make a joint bid to be included in the Tokyo games, even though the effort proved unsuccessful.
  3. In pocket billiards — or pool — depending on who can afford to participate and which games are up for grabs, one nation or continent could dominate all medal competition. Indeed,  China looks like a good bet to dominate the sport in coming years.

Growth in Popularity

WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson told "USA Today" that the popularity of billiards has "grown at unprecedented levels in recent times and it has been our belief for some time that we should be given our chance on the ultimate global platform for sport." Ferguson's group and the WCBS host about 200 competitions worldwide each year, "making us one of the world's most widely practiced sports," he added.

Another Olympic Push

After losing out on its bid to be included in the Tokyo games, billiards officials say that they are pushing again to have pool included in 2024. "We know we are a strong sport, we will come bouncing back. We think we deserve our chance," Ferguson told BBC Sport.

Ferguson added that billiards are already included as a sport in other global games, so it's just a matter of time until the IOC gets on board. "We are already in the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw (Poland in 2017)," he said. "The IOC will be there and will be judging the sports that will go through to 2024. That is a golden opportunity for us to showcase what we're made of."