DARTS AN OLYMPIC SPORT? does anyone really care?

Hearing the news in July 2019 that breakdancing has taken a step closer to inclusion in the 2024 Paris Olympics made me ask “What has happened to the case for darts to be included?”

The idea of darts becoming part of the Olympics has been debated for many years as the two accompanying illustrations indicate, being drawn from issues of Darts World during 1972 and 1973.

But it was back in 2005 that the UK Sports Councils agreed that, for their purposes, darts was a ‘sport’. Since then those darts fans who passionately want darts to be included in the Olympics must be wondering whatever’s happened in the intervening fourteen years.

Sadly the Sports Council approval came too late for darts to be considered for the 2012 London Olympics. There was insufficient time for the case to be made so fans (but how many I know not) looked forward to darts being featured in Rio in 2016 (No chance) but that passed too.

Not wanting to go over any old ground or point any digits at anyone or any organisation, I decided to contact Bill Hatter, President of the World Darts Federation (WDF) for an update. Bill told me:

“The WDF is currently in the process of compiling the IOC application. This will likely take another year to develop and submit due to the changes in the IOC application process.

Once the application is submitted and hopefully accepted, the WDF will then move from AIMS (Alliance of Independent Members of recognised Sports) and become a member of ARISF (Association of IOC Recognised Sports Federations), where we will be included in the pool of other sports that are recognised by the IOC. Inclusion into the games is determined and decided by the IOC. All new sports in the Olympics are pulled from the pool of sports that are sitting as ARISF members.  That’s all I can provide at the moment.”

Thanks Bill.

On contacting the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC), Dave Allen, Head of Media, commented:

“Re darts and the Olympics: As darts does not satisfy IOC criteria for membership, this isn’t something the PDC are considering or actively pursuing.”

That’s understandable.

Back in 2016 legendary PDC Tournament Director Dick Allix, for me, summed up the case when he wrote in the US darts magazine Bulls-Eye News

“Darts has suffered an image problem all the while I have been involved and it still does. Any attempt to get the sport into the Olympics would give the media a field day. Athleticism would come under fire. They would fall on the sport and the IOC like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. It would be murder, and I for one would not want to see that. It would be undeserved and unwarranted. Unfair, certainly, but it would happen. Darts would become a laughing stock for late night talk shows. I have defended the sport too many times from accusations that it is a past-time, not a real sport and worse. [The] WDF would have to face that and answer it head-on. Good luck with that.

So, I do not think the IOC would accept darts for a second; they wouldn’t want the flack.

Why, I wonder, does anyone want darts in the Olympics? I don’t want it because I think it’s not for us.”

There’s the question. “Who in the darting community, apart from the WDF, actually wants darts recognised as an Olympic sport?” Do you? Do you really care if it’s recognised or not?

There was a time I guess, a few years ago, when some English darts fans might have done when England ruled the oche. There was always talk of Phil Taylor guaranteeing gold for Great Britain and that was probably true at the time but that’s no longer the case.  Darts has moved on apace and England no longer rules the oche.

Many of the darts players I’ve spoken to don’t care about this issue one jot. They just want to play and enjoy their darts.

I believe that the road to Olympic recognition is so full of potholes that, as Dick Allix stated, the journey (as has already been demonstrated by the WDF over two decades) is such a rocky one, with inherent dangers, perhaps the WDF should threaten to withdraw its application.

Then we’ll see just how many people care about darts being an Olympic sport.

Back in 1936 author Rupert Croft-Cooke is his book (also titled Darts) summed up his feelings about the game he loved:

“[Darts] has none of the sentimentalised tradition of cricket, nor the subtlety of chess, nor the distinction of golf, nor the spitefulness of croquet. It is a public bar game, a game for good fellows. A spit-and-sawdust pastime. It is a game to play with the glow of beer in one’s brain, to the sound of tinkling glasses.”

I agree.

Let’s all enjoy darts in our own way and, for the sake of the sport, forget the Olympics.

© 2019 Patrick Chaplin  

Source of both illustrations: PC/DW Archive. Used with permission.


  1. Dear Mr. Chaplin,
    While I have read your book on darts and numerous columns regarding the sport, enjoying all, I have to disagree with you on this topic. As you well know, darts is trying to clean up its image with more professional tournaments and venues. A spot in the Olympics would do wonders and show the world it has gone from the tavern to a professional stage setting! What used to be a beer sport here was Softball but you now see professional leagues and it has made the Olympics. The Olympics would also help the sport spread across the globe.
    Archery has been in the Olympics. They do pull the arrow back, but with sights used it seems that surely darts would qualify as a sport. You do have to throw the darts and use your eyes to aim. As time has seen evolution, so to has the sport of darts. Players are now trying to be more fit and train for stamina. Playing long formats and standing for lengths of time is not easy. I coach basketball here in the states and to just stand or walk a bit on the sidelines causes my back to endure pain. When I played the game, running and jumping didn’t leave me as sore. I played until I was 60. So endurance is a factor and tiring can lead to a defeat as in any sport.
    Now while I can see your views and understand them, I really feel the inclusion in the Olympics may generate more positivity to help younger players become involved and boost attendance in local leagues as well as tournaments whether it it be participating or viewing. As for the image of drinking as a spectator, let’s face it, every pro sport has beer sold at its games!
    So with all being said, and more to come, I still feel the sport would get a much needed boost from an Olympic appearance! Keep up your excellent articles on the sport and the passion darters have for it. Stay well.

    Coach Gross


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