Enough already with the pole dancing

For several weeks now, the internet has been abuzz with stories about the prospect of pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport. Some of the more absurd accounts, like this one, posted Tuesday on something called Medical Daily (what?), breathlessly declare that it is “possibly headed to 2020,” meaning the next edition of the Summer Games, in Tokyo.

Enough already.

A “sport” that is irrevocably linked to strippers has no chance. Say that again, and out loud: a “sport” that makes most people snicker, or worse, because of the obvious, blatant and in-your-face connotation is not going to be in the Olympics. For sure not 2020. Not -- ever.

There is one reason, and one reason only, these clickbait stories are making the rounds. Can you say — word being used on purpose here — titillating?

Pole dancing competition in Greece in 2016 // Getty Images

Pole dancing competition in Greece in 2016 // Getty Images

So that we are unequivocally clear: pole dancing has zero chance of vaulting onto the Olympic program.

Again: zero.

For emphasis: the chance of pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport is the same as me beating Justin Gatlin in a 100-meter sprint.

That would be — zero.

Why has pole dancing suddenly been linked to the Olympics, even in publications such as the Washington Post?

Because on Oct. 2, GAISF, the umbrella organization for Olympic and non-Olympic sport federations, announced it had granted “observer” status to seven federations, including the International Pole Sports Federation. 

Also granted status were federations for arm wrestling; dodgeball; footgolf; kettlebell lifting; match poker; and table soccer (that’s foosball). 

So let’s ask the obvious question. 

Why did, say, the Washington Post run a story on pole dancing but not, say, kettlebell lifting?

For sure tension is an inherent part of storytelling; storytelling is central to journalism; journalism is what the Washington Post does. The tension is obvious: the Olympic ideals contrasted with the notion of a “sport” that you can watch tonight at Spearmint Rhino courtesy of Destiny, Tiffany or Cinnamon.

But just because something is there doesn’t mean it needs to be written about, particularly in one of the leading U.S. publications. Talk about fake news.

Pole dancing as a “sport” may indeed require abs of steel. But so what? Foosball demands quick wrists. Foosball is not going to be in the Olympics. And neither is match poker.

And the problem with pole dancing appearing in the Washington Post is that being in the Post gives the notion a certain sort of legitimacy.

When there are no grounds for that. None.

Similar sorts of stories appeared elsewhere: the Telegraph (“… once considered a risqué pursuit, performed in front of a paying clientele at late night establishments), the New York Daily News (“…guys love to watch and girls love to try to learn at bachelorette parties”), other outlets. 

But the Post purportedly holds itself to a different standard. 

Bluntly, that the Post would write about pole dancing for yuks, particularly in the midst of the #metoo movement -- triggered by reports about sexual harassment and assault tied to revelations about the Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and others -- offers tension so jarring as to be inexplicable.

Indeed, courtesy of the Post’s “Read More” links directly under the pole dancing story, the very first headline is this: 

‘McKayla Maroney says USA Gymnastics team doctor began molesting her at the age of 13’

The fifth of five headlines under the pole dancing story: ‘Former Soviet gymnast Tatiana Gutsu accuses fellow Olympic gold medalist of rape

Is the disconnect not astonishingly evident? Particularly when the story about Gutsu references -- in the headline -- the #metoo hashtag?

How does the Post story about pole dancing, published October 18, begin?

It’s not as if the writer and editors don’t understand exactly what this is all about: “No strip club necessary.”

When there is, to reiterate, zero chance of pole dancing ever appearing in the Summer Olympics:

— “Observer” status at GAISF is itself a long, long, long way from the Olympic program. That’s the start line of what might as well be the Iditarod Trail. 

— The Summer Games program is already overburdened with too many sports and too many athletes, all the more so since the IOC added the likes of surfing and skateboarding to Tokyo 2020. So let's see: track and field, swimming or rowing would cheerfully give up 24 or 48 spots so that the world can welcome pole dancing? NBC would re-arrange its programming, just like it did for Michael Phelps and the other swimmers in Beijing in 2008, so that it could feature pole dancing in prime time for mom and and dad and, with big eyes, little Billy and Susie? Over here, please: these nice doping control officers are waiting for you, because something is amiss.

— The IOC has made a huge push in recent years to promote gender equity on the field of play and, notably, in its leadership ranks. Four women who have fought for years to promote such equity currently serve on the IOC’s 15-member policy-making executive board. Optics test: pole dancing. Fail.

— The IOC is facing allegations of corruption involving the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Games. It is constantly facing criticism that its members are elitist and prone to, let’s say, certain inducements. Given those dynamics, in what world of possibility would a “sport” tied to strippers ever — repeat, ever — become part of the Olympics?

Answer: never.

So enough already. Back to your regularly scheduled programming — like the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games torch relay (for you purists: flame relay), which got underway Tuesday at a traditional ceremony in ancient Olympia, Greece, an actress dressed as high priestess in a traditional gown carrying a bowl of fire during the lighting ceremony, a reminder that the Olympics — at their best — are about friendship, excellence and respect.

To reiterate: respect.

No strippers. No pole dancing. Let’s get real, people.