Tug of war bids to be included at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Tug of war bids to be included at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games


TOKYO 2020 organisers have revealed the list of sports bidding for inclusion in the Olympics and some are pretty far-fetched.

Could korfball, billiards or roller sports really find a way on to the Games program? Or what about the ancient sport of tug of war, which was contested as part of the athletics at five Olympics from 1900 to 1920?

Some would say it’s a pipe dream but it’s far from ridiculous to the passionate communities behind these sports.

President of the Australian Tug of War Association Ben Hoffman is among the latter, pushing the cause of a sport he says is pure, “the sort the Olympics were made for” and hugely appealing to crowds.

So are they dreaming? Or are these sort of events more worthy than sports that have pinnacles outside of the Games. Hoffman tells foxsports.com.au below why he thinks a century-long Olympic exile for the tug of war should end in Tokyo.

Golf and rugby sevens joined the Olympic program in Rio 2016. What’s next in 2020?


Most of us remember playing tug of war as kids but some stick with it beyond their school years. The Tug of War International Federation has 63 member nations and hosts world championships biannually. The sport is strong in Europe, particularly in Ireland which has six grades of national competition. In Australia, there are six clubs and around 120 participants competing at national level, with teams based in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.

“We hear it a hell of a lot. People are always saying ‘I haven’t seen tug of war since I was at school’, so we are, I guess, a niche sport,” Hoffman said.

“It’s an amateur sport but the clubs at national level take it very, very seriously. We train very hard two or three times a week as a team plus individual training”. Maitland are a leading side in the Australian national tug of war competition.



Hoffman says the tug of war was so popular, festival organisers were concerned the crowd was not circulating enough in other areas. He reckons it would be a similar story in Tokyo.

“To be frank it’s a crowd favourite,” Hoffman said.

“People won’t go out to see a tug of war event if it’s in their town but if they’re at a show and the tug of war is there, then they’ll stay and they’ll stay for hours.”


Hoffman says Tug of War benefits from its simplicity and the fact it does not require subjective scoring by a team of judges, only the evaluation of rule infringements.

“Tug of war must be one of the purest of all athletic events in terms of the natural human abilities it tests,” Hoffman said.

“It also has a set of rules and objectives which make it simpler for the wider international community to follow than most modern, more complex sports,

“Someone gets dragged over that line. You know who wins.”



Size doesn’t matter, Hoffman says, with technique and teamwork more important than strength, making the sport open to people of all ages and sizes.

“People think it’s rip, tear, bust and it’s not at all,” Hoffman said.

“The sport is very much built around teamwork . A successful side works as a unit. The best analogy I can give you, it’s a bit like a tight eight in a rugby scrum. You’ve got to be working together and knowing what the other guys are doing.

“We had a recent competition in the Hunter Valley about three months ago with a side weighing 600kg against a novice time weighing 900kg and we beat them fairly easily.”


Hoffman says it was now up to the international federations to convince the International Olympic Committee of the merits of the sport.

“In our view it is the kind of sport the Olympics were made for, sports that perhaps don’t have their stand-alone key event such as cricket and rugby, tennis, golf and whatnot,” Hoffman said.

Could tug of war make an Olympic return after a century?Source: News Limited

And if it did happen, how would Australia go?

Hoffman said Australia are a step below the likes of Ireland, Great Britain, Spain and Switzerland but capable of improving as the game grows domestically.

“Realistically speaking, I would say we’re a second-tier nation but we are training hard to do something about that,” he said.

“We would be competitive but not a medal chance, if it was held today.

“In five years’ time, though, I’m quietly confident we could surprise a few people.”


An Australian Olympic medal in tug of war? Now that would be a surprise.

The full list of applicants for inclusion at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are: Air sports, American football, baseball-softball, bowls, bowling, bridge, chess, dance sport, floorball, flying disc, karate, korfball, netball, orienteering, polo, racquetball, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, sumo, surfing, tug of war, underwater, waterski and wakeboard, and wushu.

Emmanuel Olla Williams, the Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) Director for Youth Development says Tug of War is an interesting sport which Ghana can win a medal and supports that it should be added to create other opportunities.