Should Angling be an Olympic Sport?
As the Rio Olympics wowed us with the striking backdrop of the city and the amazing performances, anglers may be left wondering why our sport didn't feature in this year's games.
After all, Angling is one of the most popular pastimes in the world. It is also one of the most inclusive as people of all ages and both genders can learn to fish and it doesn't cost the earth to invest in the required equipment. There are no class barriers and angling is popular in virtually every country on the planet. But there are no Olympic medals for angling.
So why has Angling failed to make it to the Olympics when far less popular activities and more obscure sports regularly feature in the Games?
Television Audience Appeal
Perhaps one of the main reasons for angling's failure to make it to the Olympics is its lack of appeal to television viewers. With most sports, the activity is to some extent continuous. The athletes keep running, boxers keep fighting and the fencers keep waving very thin pieces of metal at each other... In many sports the target is clearly visible at all times and spectators can see if competitors have hit it. There is an immediacy to sports with targets, goals and finishing lines which makes them compelling. Fishing has none of these elements and that is a problem.
The fish are beneath the water and comparison between catches difficult to discern. Competitive fishing is of course out there but it simply doesn't make for great television for the uninitiated.
Vamping Up Fishing
There have been attempts to give fishing more entertainment value in a string of television series pitching humans against monster-fish and against each other in extraordinary settings. These programmes have raised the profile of the sport but possibly not in a way that is likely to gain any traction with the Olympic Committee.
Angling has always struggled to attract serious sponsors or the support of advertisers and this has done nothing to further its cause as a potential Olympic sport. Money talks when it comes to the Olympic Games.
There appears to be a perception that luck plays a big role in competitive Angling. This is all despite the fact that the same anglers tend to be successful again and again in major competitions, which would indicate that skill is the primary factor in determining who wins. Of course there is an element of luck with fishing but then that is true of other sports too. Ask the poor cyclist who was cleaned out by Mark Cavendish in the Rio velodrome!
A New Format
It might be possible to evolve a format for competitive angling that would make the sport spectator friendly. It would need to be one that delivered quantifiable and definitive results and where skills would be to the fore. In other words, not a competition in which a single significant catch could win you a medal. Fishing could become an Olympic sport but it is highly unlikely that it will.