Football fans would love to see their favorite sport played more widely, but could add it to one of the future Olympic events help make this happen? You might be surprised to learn that gridiron football has already been played at the Olympics, so what are the chances of it happening again?
The 1932 Demo Experiment
The 1932 Summer Olympics were held in Los Angeles in the US. Football was added as a demonstration sport, with just one game played. The original idea was to match the two national college champions together, which would have meant USC playing against Yale. However, organizers were wary of the accusations of growing professionalism in college football at the time.
Instead, one team was made up of seniors from the three Western universities of Cal, Stanford, and USC. Their rivals came from Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, which are the big three universities on the East Coast. All the players had graduated, and it was a sort of All-Star game.
A crowd of 60,000 crammed into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to see the team from the West win by 7-6. This event was a success and was followed by another demo game at the World Fair the following year in Chicago.
The Olympic demonstration seemingly did little to boost the profile of football across the world at the time. However, experts have suggested that it helped to make professional football more popular in the US, so it was certainly a useful experience, even if it didn’t have a global impact.
Before that, there were some football games played at the 1904 Summer Olympics. However, in this case, it was simply a question of Saint Louis University and Washington University in St Louis playing their regular season games at Francis Field and calling them an Olympic demo.
We’ve also seen football players such as Jim Thorpe, Bob Hayes, and Henry Carr win Olympic gold medals in a variety of events, such as athletics and wrestling. The most recent example of a footballer performing well at the Olympics is Devon Allen, who played as a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles and came fourth in the 110 meters hurdles in Tokyo in 2021.
Where Is Football Played Now?
One of the most important factors to consider is how widely-played the sport now is. It’s no secret that the NFL season is still the most important, but the arrival of online streaming and betting now allows players from around the planet to enjoy it more easily than before. If we look at a Super bowl betting line we can see that it’s possible to wager in advance on the biggest game of the NFL season. You can also bet on the upcoming games during the regular season, with wagers such as a money line bet on the outright winner and prop bets on team and player performances in individual games.
Canada is the next biggest country for football, with the CFL made up of nine teams, and it’s been running since 1958. The sport is played in plenty of other parts of the world, and there are numerous international leagues, but it’s not managed to gain the popularity it has in the US, so maybe another demo game could help push it forward now that some sort of football infrastructure is in place in many countries.
A Look Ahead to LA 2028
There are no plans to include football at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, where breakdancing and sport climbing are among the new sports to be introduced. However, the fact that the games are coming back to Los Angeles in 2028 could provide the best opportunity to showcase it at this level.
It was announced last year that flag football is one of the proposed sports that may be included in the LA Game in five years’ time. A non-contact version of the game, flag football, could prove to be the ideal introduction to football for millions of sports fans around the planet. It isn’t yet clear whether this would be a medal event between different nations or a demonstration involving NFL teams.
After the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board approved the acceptance of the International Federal of American Football earlier this year, we’re a lot closer to getting flag football at the Olympics. However, it will be October this year before the full ICO gets to vote on whether they agree with this decision.
Football is in a very different position from where it was in 1932. Back then, the pro version of the sport hadn’t yet been fully accepted, and there was limited knowledge of the game outside of the US. Now, a successful demonstration of flag football in the 2028 event could prove to be a way of boosting the number of people playing and watching it in different parts of the world.