Why You Should Expect to See Pole Dancing at the Olympics

Photo credit: Millie Robson

This and other sports accredited 2 October, plus five new events for the 2020 Olympics.

I’m a pole dancer, people. Yup, this is as biased an article on pole as you’re ever likely to read. I’ve been performing and teaching pole since 2008. Talk to me for ten minutes, I’ll dispel any misconceptions. It hurts. It’s not sexual. It requires more whole-body strength than anything I’ve ever known, and as a professional dancer I spent years supplementing my training with Pilates, CrossFit, TRX and power-lifting. Nothing comes close. My pole colleagues are athletes. In pole you invert your body – resisting centrifugal force – against something vertical, 45mm in diameter and slippery. And while contorting and deadlifting your entire bodyweight, you must also make it look effortless.

As you can imagine, I welcomed the news that pole was recently recognised by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) as a sport with jubilation. I then welcomed it with some wine.

To clarify, pole has been granted ‘observer’ status by the GAISF, along with six other newly-accredited sports federations. This means that while there’s still a way to go before we see pole at the Olympics, it’s a huge Iron X in the right direction. (Sorry. That is indeed a pole move.)

Other sports that were welcomed earlier this month into the category are:




kettlebell lifting

(match) poker

table soccer

An interesting mix, then. Half of this list I might consider the staple of many a stag do. Then again, I’ve taught pole classes for several hen parties. Individual drive to become the best at these games plays no small part in their eventual recognition as bona fide sports.

International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF) is committed to ensuring pole becomes an Olympic event by 2024. The IPSF holds annual competitions where drugs testing is enforced and anything from wardrobe malfunctions to insufficient jump-dismounts from the pole are penalised.

The five new events for the summer 2020 Olympics in Tokyo are:

– baseball/softball

– karate

– skateboarding

– sports climbing

– surfing

Squash and netball were among sports considered but dismissed, apparently. Evidently the organisers are trying to encourage a more working-class interest, with arguably more street-friendly, accessible sports.

When people ask me if pole can ever shrug off its association with the salacious, I tell them this story: I once taught a regular pole class. Two of my students were a 72-year-old retired scaffolder and his 19-year-old granddaughter. They trained together on power moves as if they were watching each other’s golf swing or putting technique. They had shrugged off that association a long time ago.

In pole, you’ll find explosive technique reminiscent of gymnastics, strength reminiscent of weight-lifting, minute alterations of grip reminiscent of tennis, and full-body rotations reminiscent of 10m platform diving. All of these aspects of pole can be – and indeed are being – judged in a competition.

I put it to you that if rhythmic gymnastics and ice dancing are Olympic sports, there’s more than enough room for my beloved 45mm of chrome.


4 thoughts

  1. YES when will we stop being so mysogynistic about pole dancing. Pole vaulting? Is that subjected to such scrutiny? Its a beautiful art form and a triumph of male and female physiology.


  2. Hear, hear! Pole dancers are amazing athletes, I am just in awe whenever I watch a top level performer defy gravity and twist, grip and fly up and down around that 45mm chrome apparatus. Looking forward to seeing you smash it in 2024… Becky for GB Gold!


  3. I agree entirely! Would love to see this as an Olympic sport. Every one of these incredible athletes could beat the arm wrestlers ‘hands down!’
    The article is so beautifully written, and with such passion, it had me in tears!


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