With surfing and skateboarding now officially recognized as Olympic sports and set to make their first debut in the 2020 Summer Olympics, and cheerleading and breakdancing granted IOC funding hoping they will join the ranks in 2024, pole dancing is also making its way to the Olympics after the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF) agreed to classify it as professional sport.
Unexpected to many, the addition of pole-dancing doesn't seem that far-fetched upon second thought. The practice has gone a long way from being strictly associated with scantily-clad 'exotic dancers' twirling for cash in sleazy nightclubs, to a self-empowerment movement that boosts confidence and self-esteem.
In many cases, it is practiced as a form of fitness and is officially represented by the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) whose goal is to "positively promote pole as an athletic sport."
Now, the Federation has gone a step further by obtaining the "observer status" from GAISF, all thanks to its president Katie Coates, who was campaigning for 11 years to get pole dancing recognized as a sport. What started as a petition with more than 10,000 signatures has blossomed into a historic achievement. In her post on The Telegraph, Coates writes:
"Now Pole [...] can be viewed as it should be – a sport – rather than just controversial titillation. I've always dreamed that maybe Nike would sponsor our athletes and competitions, and now that's a possibility."
Coates understands there will always be "naysayers" who'll refuse to see past traditional pole dancing's purpose. However, she wants the public to understand that professional pole sports are "as far removed from the world of strip clubs and nightclubs as can be."
"That still exists and has its place in society, but it's almost like saying BMX riding is the same as Tour de France. While we use the same apparatus – the pole – our communities are different. [...]
If you put two videos side by side – traditional pole and pole sports – you would see so much difference in how it's staged, the lighting, costume, movement – everything."
Coates is optimistic that pole dancing will make it into the Olympics, after all, she says, it only took six years to get it recognized as an official sport – a feat that has proven to be much more difficult to many other activities. As for us, we're pretty convinced just by looking at some of these pole dancing videos, so... see you on the pole in 2024?