There is always a question about how many sports are played in the Summer and Winter Olympics and also exactly what sports are they? These questions can be answered if you can get a hold of an official Olympic sport list.
Currently there are 26 sports in the Summer Olympics and 7 sports in the Winter Olympics. Each sport may have more than one discipline or event that is used in competition at the Olympics. An example of this would be swimming. There were 34 swimming events in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This is in contrast to basketball for example. Basketball only has 2 events, men’s basketball and women’s basketball. In order for a basketball player to win as many gold medals in his career as Michael Phelps won in the Beijing Olympics he would have to be on the national Olympic team for over 30 years!
The Summer Olympics have 302 events on the Olympic sport list in Beijing and in the 2010 Winter Olympics there will be 86 events. These numbers change slightly each Olympic games because the International Olympic Committee approve new sports and discontinue other sports. The most recent change is going to be baseball and softball will be dropped for the next Summer Olympics. The International Olympic Committee makes their decision based on the number of countries that participate and if there is a governing body for that sport. If there is a governing body by which the sport can be judged and it is widely participated in worldwide then it is looked at by the International Olympic Committee for addition to the Olympic sport list at the next Olympic games.
Another interesting note is that there are currently 32 sports that are recognized by the International Olympic Committee as sport but are not contested in the Olympic games. Of these 32 sports two will be selected for the 2016 Summer Olympics by the International Olympic Committee at a meeting in 2009 in Copenhagen. They are considering seven sports for the two spots: softball, baseball, golf, rugby, squash, karate and roller sports.
One rule that is in place when choosing a sport for the Olympics is that the primary propulsion used in a race can not be mechanical. This rule is followed strictly now but in the early days of the modern Olympic games there were power boating events! Technology has advanced to the point that this would be engineering and not physical ability that would decide the winner. Something that goes against what the Olympics is all about.
Remember next time you are watching the Olympics, whether the Summer Olympics or the Winter Olympics, that there are a lot more events than you will see in prime time and many of them are very entertaining. Try and find something you enjoy that has a star athlete who you won’t see on the cover of a cereal box or in a shoe commercial.