Cross Country in the Olympics

Watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies tonight reminded me of the fact that cross country running is not an Olympic sport. With the shear number of sports that are now in the games, the obvious question is why not cross country?

Surprisingly, cross country has been run at the Olympics in the past. There were cross country races in 1912, 1920, and 1924. However, the sport was dropped from the 1928 games because organizers felt that it was not “suitable” for summer competition. The impetus was that more than half of the runners in the 1924 race dropped out due to unusually hot weather and poisonous fumes from a nearby factory.

Since those Games, cross country has been proposed as a possible addition to the Olympic program, but rejected multiple times. The primary reason appears to be fear of diluting the track distance races. Some has floated the idea of including cross country running in the Winter Olympics, but the International Olympic Committee has consistently stated that Winter Olympic events must be competed on ice or snow. However, that might not be a problem.

When asked in 2009 about including cross country in the Olympic Games, Lamine Diack, who is president of the IAAF, stated, “The IOC have now written to us to ask our advice and we have told them that we are in favor of it. We are prepared to organize cross country in the Winter Olympics. It would be a good move for our sport.” There you have it – cross country might get in as a Winter Olympic sport. Therefore, it appears that there might actually be a cross country race in the 2014 Olympics. Sounds like the world’s best runners better start training in snowshoes.

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