For centuries, the Olympics have showcased the very best in human physical achievement. But did you know that these celebrated Games are also a dynamic, ever-evolving spectacle?

As we look to the future, a surprising new contender emerges from the sidelines: Pole Dancing. Before you raise an eyebrow, let’s dive into why we believe this art form deserves its place on the Olympic stage.

The History of Pole Dancing

Long associated with cabarets and nightclubs, pole dancing has a rich and vibrant history that extends far beyond these connotations. Its roots trace back to ancient Indian and Chinese cultures, where it was a display of strength and flexibility, much like the gymnastics disciplines we know and love today.

Pole dancing, as we know it today, is a fusion of many forms, and its roots are a bit varied and complex. It’s often associated with exotic dance and entertainment from the mid-20th century, but its origins are believed to go much further back, combining elements from different cultures worldwide.

  1. China: The Chinese pole, which is usually rubberized to ensure a good grip, has been used in circus performances for centuries. The acrobats perform feats of strength and agility, such as climbing, hanging, swinging, and flipping around the pole. This tradition is similar in many ways to modern pole dancing and could be considered one of its antecedents.
  2. India: Pole dancing also has similarities to the Indian sport of Mallakhamb, which dates back to the 12th century. Mallakhamb involves a performer doing aerial yoga & wrestling grips, poses, and movements around a wooden pole. This art requires incredible strength and agility, similar to modern pole dancers.
  3. The Western World: In the West, pole dancing as we know it began to gain popularity as a form of entertainment in travelling fairs and carnivals in the 1920s in North America, where dancers would perform in small tents, using the pole in the tent’s centre to dance suggestively. The pole dancing that we know today began to evolve in the 1980s in Canada and the US, and from there, it spread to the rest of the world. It started in exotic dance clubs and gradually became mainstream as a form of exercise and expression.

So, while it’s challenging to trace a single origin point for pole dancing, it’s clear that the art form pulls together threads from several diverse practices, each contributing to what we now recognize as pole dancing.

The Rise of Pole Dancing as a Competitive Sport

Fast forward to the 21st century, and pole dancing has evolved into a recognized form of fitness and artistic expression.

Spearheaded by organizations like the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF), pole dancing is now a competitive sport, complete with rigorous training regimens, complex scoring systems, and international championships.

The athletes are a great example of the discipline, strength and agility needed and can easily compete with gymnasts or dancers.

The Road to the Olympics

Every sport’s journey to the Olympics is a marathon, not a sprint. Currently, pole dancing is in the starting blocks of this race, vying for recognition as a legitimate sport. The IPSF is working tirelessly to overcome societal stereotypes and push the boundaries of acceptance in the athletic community.

Becoming an Olympic event involves a thorough evaluation process by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and it’s not an easy task. Here’s a brief outline of the process:

  1. Recognition: First, the sport must be widely practised around the world. Specifically, the IOC stipulates that the activity must be practised by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents and by women in at least 40 countries and on three continents.
  2. International Federation: The sport must have an international federation (IF), which ensures that the sport’s activities follow the Olympic Charter. If the sport doesn’t have an IF, it must create one before applying.
  3. Application: The IF must apply for inclusion in the Olympics. The IOC then reviews the application, considering various factors such as the sport’s history, universality, popularity, good governance, and commitment to athletes’ development and education.
  4. Evaluation: If the application is accepted, the IOC’s Programme Commission reviews the potential costs and benefits of the sport. The Commission examines factors like ticket sales potential, youth appeal, and whether it would add value to the Olympic program.
  5. Vote: Following the review, the IOC Executive Board can propose the sport’s inclusion to the IOC Session, where a majority vote decides whether the sport will be added to the program.

Examples of Added Sports

Some sports have been recently added to the Olympic program:

  1. Skateboarding: This sport made its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, adding a more modern and youth-focused event to the lineup.
  2. Karate: The 2020 Tokyo Games also marked the debut of karate, aligning with the tradition and culture of the host country, Japan.
  3. Sport Climbing: This sport also made its Olympic debut in 2020, reflecting the growing interest in outdoor and adventure sports.

Examples of Discontinued Sports

Over the years, several sports have been removed from the Olympic program:

  1. Tug of War: Believe it or not, tug of war was an Olympic event until 1920.
  2. Polo: This sport was included in the Olympics sporadically but was last played at the Games in 1936.
  3. Lacrosse: This sport was included in the 1904 and 1908 Games, but has not been included since.

The sports program of the Olympics continues to evolve, as the IOC aims to keep the Games relevant and engaging for global audiences. Today, sports like breakdancing are also being considered for future inclusion, indicating that the Olympic Games continue to evolve.

Potential Impact of Olympic Inclusion

Should pole dancing pirouette its way into the Olympics, the ripple effects would be transformative. Not only would this shift the public perception of pole dancing, but it would also encourage greater participation and diversify the range of sports available. Isn’t the Olympic spirit all about fostering unity in diversity?

Case Studies of Recent Additions to the Olympics

Pole dancing isn’t alone in its struggle for Olympic recognition. Remember when BMX and skateboarding were seen as renegade pastimes? Today, they’re two of the most exciting events at the Summer Games, attracting a legion of fans and offering a breath of fresh air to the Olympic program. Like these sports, pole dancing can bring a new, vibrant energy to the Games.

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Public Opinion on Pole Dancing as an Olympic Sport

As with any change, pole dancing’s Olympic bid has sparked global debates. Detractors dismiss it as out of place in the Olympics, while proponents argue for its athletic merit and cultural significance. Many athletes and experts have voiced their support, comparing the physical demands of pole dancing to established Olympic events like the parallel bars or the pommel horse.


In a world where sport constantly evolves, it’s exciting to envision a future where pole dancing has its rightful place in the Olympic Games. It’s about time we embrace sports in all their forms and colours – after all, isn’t the Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”? Pole dancers definitely fit the bill!