Cheerleading’s Olympic Journey: History & What’s Coming

by TheCheerBuzz
Olympic Games medal as cheerleading receives Olympic recognition

UPDATED: October, 2023

In this article, we will explore cheerleading’s path to the Olympics, starting from its recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and leading up to the latest developments in the sport’s pursuit of a spot on the Olympic stage.

The sport’s recognition has been celebrated everywhere in the cheerleading community – but also led to many questions. We explain exactly what this means for the sport, and answer common questions about the future of cheerleading in the Olympic Games.

2016: Provisional Membership with the IOC

Cheerleading secured provisional (temporary) membership with the International Olympic Committee in 2016:

“The International Olympic Committee’s executive board voted on Tuesday to recognize cheerleading and the combat sport Muay Thai, meaning that the governing body for each sport will receive at least $25,000 annually from the committee and have the opportunity to apply for additional grants.

The provisional recognition of the two sports, which will last for up to three years, lays the groundwork for each sport to apply for inclusion in the Olympics. At any point during those three years, committee executives can vote to fully recognize the sports, after which each could petition to be included in the Games.”

“Cheerleading and Muay Thai Given Provisional Olympic Status” – The New York Times

This recognition was a big step towards getting cheerleading into the Olympics, and was given to the ICU, the ‘World Governing Body of Cheerleading’. This means the ICU is leading the way in making cheerleading an Olympic sport.

Learn more about the ICU and its annual World Championship: What is the ICU World Cheerleading Championship?

With this came responsibilities and requirements that the ICU would have to follow for a chance at receiving full recognition:

“Once a sport is recognized, it then moves to International Sports Federation (IF) status. At that point, the international organization administering the sport must enforce the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code, including conducting effective out-of-competition tests on the sport’s competitors while maintaining rules set forth by the Olympic Charter.”

“How Are Sports Chosen for the Olympics?” – Encyclopedia Britannica

2021: Full Recognition by the IOC

In 2021, the IOC announced that cheerleading had received full Olympic recognition as a sport. The ICU had shown that they met all the needed criteria.

What does full recognition mean? 

While cheerleading was now officially recognized by the IOC, it did not guarantee cheerleading would be in the Olympics – at least not yet. 

The recognition meant that the sport of cheerleading could apply to be in the Olympic Games, which the ICU intended to do, according to their president Jeff Webb:

Jeff Webb, president of the ICU, talks about the exciting news.

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2022/2023: Exclusion from the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics

In 2022, the Organizing Committee of the 2028 Olympics presented nine proposed sports for consideration. These were baseball/softball, breakdance, cricket, flag football, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, squash, and motorsport – no cheerleading.

2023 Update: After letting the governing bodies of these nine sports share their proposals, the IOC has officially accepted five of them for the 2028 Games: baseball/softball, cricket, flag football, lacrosse, and squash. This means that cheerleading has no chance to be in the 2028 Olympics.

What now? Will Cheerleading ever be in the Olympics?

Many different things affect whether a sport is ultimately chosen for the Olympics or not. This includes gender equality, infrastructure (arenas, etc.), costs, what value the sport adds, if it attracts the public and the media, and more.

Click here to read more about how sports are chosen for the Olympics.

Cheerleading has come a long way since receiving IOC recognition in 2021 but faces different challenges that may have contributed to its exclusion from the 2028 Games.

Many believe the sport must address negative perceptions, make itself more accessible and affordable, and resolve internal conflicts at various levels of governing bodies and organizations.

The next Olympics where cheerleading could be added is taking place in Brisbane, Australia in 2032. After that came the 2036 games (the location hasn’t been decided yet).

Which teams will compete at the Olympics if cheerleading is included?

When cheerleading got full recognition in 2021, it naturally caught a lot of people’s attention. But it also led to some wrong information and speculations about future Olympic cheer teams. So, let’s clarify…

The Allstar cheerleading teams and athletes we see at The Cheerleading Worlds would not be competing at the Olympics. National teams would be representing their countries at the Games, not individual Allstar cheer gyms/clubs or teams.

Athletes on these Senior Premier National teams are most often on a collegiate, elite level and perform level 7 skills:

Example of an ICU Worlds routine from Team USA Coed.

Watch more incredible ICU routines here: 8 Amazing ICU Worlds Routines To Watch Right Now

If cheerleading in the Olympics were to follow current ICU standards, it would mean that Senior teams would probably compete on level 7 (‘Premier’) and perform a chant before the routine, just like at the ICU World Championships.

Additionally, they’d likely perform on a hard floor, known as a ‘dead mat,’ rather than a spring floor.

In conclusion, cheerleading’s Olympic journey is still a work in progress. While cheer isn’t in the Olympics yet, it’s closer than ever to being a part of one of the world’s biggest and most respected sports events!

If you want to stay updated on the latest news and changes in the world of cheerleading, don’t forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

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