Ultimate Frisbee Shoots for a Spot in the 2024 Olympics

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The United States is the best Ultimate Frisbee country in the world, but it may not win the sport’s first Olympic gold. The International Olympic Committee gave Ultimate Frisbee’s global federation official recognition Aug. 1, the first step to a sport being included in a Games. The soonest Ultimate could be a medal sport is 2024, and while the U.S. recently won seven of eight gold medals at the sport’s World Championships, the dominance window might be shut in nine years. “The world is catching us,” says Tom Crawford, CEO of USA Ultimate. “These competitions have become super tight. There’s a lot of parity developing around the world.” The world is also catching on. Nob Rauch, chief of the World Flying Disc Federation, says the sport is played in 90 countries—most notably in Canada, Australia, the U.K. and Japan. Currently, WFDF has 62 member countries, but it needs 75 by 2017 to be eligible for inclusion in the 2024 Summer Games to accommodate the IOC’s decision-making timetable of seven years prior to an Olympics. New IOC rules say that host cities can choose sports to be included at their Games, so Rauch and Crawford have a strategy to woo cities bidding on the 2024 Games. Rome, Toronto, Hamburg, Budapest and Paris and a U.S. city (probably Los Angeles) will be among those competing. As part of the Olympic movement, Ultimate USA headquarters recently moved from Boulder to Colorado Springs to be closer to USOV and other NGBs.   Working in their favor is that the IOC is open about trying to attract younger generations. Because Ultimate is a mixed-gender game and is self-policing—the players are also the referees—Crawford says the sports checks off a lot of boxes important to the IOC, including youth, gender equality and TV appeal. Since 2013, ESPN has televised three of Ultimate USA’s top events: the College Championships, the U.S. Open and the National Championships. “We’ve proven that the sport is very entertaining on TV,” says Crawford. “It’s a sport that if it’s on during the Olympic Games, it’s going to grab viewers.” Crawford has been invaluable as the head of the sport in its native land. He spent a decade as the USOC’s director of coaching, and his contacts play a big role as he guides the ongoing and necessary growth from kids on up. He says that the IOC’s acceptance of the sport will be a key tool in boosting the sport’s trial and participation. The exposure has helped establish a relationship with New York City’s CYO, which will introduce the sport to kids in its programs. Crawford wants to partner with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and YMCA as well. Parents may embrace the sport’s inexpensive entry cost—athletic clothing and a Frisbee. “I wanted to get into the Olympic program for a lot more reasons than being eligible for the Games,” he says. “We’re booming at the youth level. We have tremendous appeal as a non-traditional sport they can pursue that’s wicked fun.” See Photo Gallery: Ultimate Frisbee Catches On Photo Credit: CBMT creative, courtesy of USA Ultimate