BREAKDANCING — or breaking, as it’s been abbreviated to by the impatient — is now an Olympic sport and will make its debut at the 2024 Paris Olympics. If this seems bizarre, consider this — in 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) actually dropped wrestling from the 2020 Tokyo games. Not surprisingly, financial considerations were the reason behind dropping possibly the oldest sport known to man from the Olympics — it was felt wrestling did not appeal to the younger viewers watching TV. Mercifully, seven months after wrestling was removed, IOC reinstated it for Tokyo 2020, after sports administrators realised that a mistake had been made. After all, TRP ratings and money can’t be the prime criteria to decide which disciplines should make it to the world’s biggest festival of sport.
However, the near-death of Olympics wrestling showed that the broadcasters have such a hold over IOC that even cornerstone sports are not safe in the pursuit of TV ratings and ad revenue. IOC, whose officials have been involved in corruption scandals in the past, is not immune to the lure of money. It’s not surprising — the revenue IOC earned from broadcasting deals for the 2018 Winter Olympics and 2020 Summer Olympics is in the range of $4.5 billion. He who pays the piper calls the tune — the broadcaster, with the inclusion of dancing in the Olympics programme, at the cost of traditional, ‘proper’ sports, is calling the tune. It is mindboggling that squash is not part of the Olympics but breakdancing is.
From IOC’s point of view, including breakdancing in Paris 2024 makes sense — the Olympics viewership is ageing, and the TV ratings in the US for the 2016 edition were 15% lower than those for the 2012 games. The biggest share of IOC’s Olympics revenue comes from the US. Then, breakdancing was very popular at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires — this confirmed to IOC that it and other youth-oriented ‘sports’, such as skateboarding and climbing, would lure younger viewers. IOC’s ideals mutated beyond recognition over the last five decades — the inclusion of breakdancing in the Olympics programme shows that more than ever before, IOC’s focus is on profit.