Bowling's Olympic efforts have been many By Mark Miller



    Republished courtesy of (Sept. 4, 2012)

    OlympicRings.jpgBowling first had a close encounter with the Olympics in 1936 when an international tournament in Berlin, Germany, was conducted at the same time as the Olympics. But it was not an official part of those Games or any others until 1988 when it was an exhibition sport in Seoul, South Korea.

    Efforts to even get to that stage began in 1963 when bowling first applied to the International Olympic Committee to be considered a sport something that took until 1979 to achieve. They continued in earnest in 1970 led by then American Bowling Congress Executive Secretary Treasurer Frank Baker, who later served as president of the sport's worldwide governing body, the Federation Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ) , from 1977-83.

    Another past ABC leader, Roger Tessman, took over at FIQ in 1984 and that same year, the United States Olympic Committee granted ABC and the Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC) Group C membership status.

    Earning such status gave the sport extra clout as it petitioned Olympic leaders to consider adding bowling to its program. With the help of other industry leaders, most notably Brunswick Corporation Chairman of the Board Jack Reichert, all the hard work paid off in 1986 when the Korean Olympic Committee chose bowling as an exhibition sport for the 1988 Summer Games.

    While bowling truly enjoyed its chance to show itself to the world in Seoul, it wanted to take the final step toward ultimate recognition. Signs it might took place in 1987 when the USOC upgraded bowling to Class A status beginning in 1989.

    This occurred after the Pan American Sports Organization approved bowling as a medal sport for the 1991 Pan Am Games eight years after being a Pan Am exhibition sport.

    This also gave bowling the same voice and vote on USOC policy decisions as other major sports and entitled the sport to be eligible for USOC grants for training and international competitions. And it allowed bowling to begin competing in the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1989.

    Another key development was the formation of the United States Tenpin Bowling Federation in 1989. Previously, ABC and WIBC shared the USOC spot with one voice/vote between them. USTBF changed its name to USA Bowling in 1992 with Jerry Koenig as its executive director.

    While not having any official status after 1988, bowling remained in front of Olympic officials at several ensuing Games. In 1992 in Barcelona, Spain, a 16-lane center was built by Brunswick in the Olympic Village where the 15,000 athletes from 90 countries could directly try bowling's athletic challenge for free. The center, staffed by the world's top amateur players, also hosted a special bowling event for handicapped athletes.

    Bowling also made its presence known at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta on the student union lanes on the Georgia Tech campus which served as the Olympic Village. In addition to the World Amateur Championships being held there, the lanes served as a recreational center and learn-to-bowl facility for other athletes and Olympic officials.

    There also was a bowling tournament for Olympic officials at a bowling center near the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, paid for by Japanese bowling organizations. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, bowling officials were present to spread the bowling gospel.

    Unfortunately bowling's efforts lost steam later in 2002 when the IOC decided to cap the number of Summer Olympic sports at 28 and only add sports if others were dropped. While baseball and softball were removed, only golf and rugby were added. Bowling, along with ballroom dancing, surfing, billiards, squash, water skiing and racquetball, were rejected.

    With people like Baker, Reichert and Tessman deceased and Koenig long out of the sport, it's up to Kevin Dornberger and the FIQ/WTBA to start over.

    Tessman, who died last year, liked to call the journey to full Olympic recognition as a relay race. He'd most likely say the baton has been passed to a new generation of leaders to try to do what he and his peers could not.