The argument as to whether darts should be an Olympic sport has been debated for years, so its no surprise that Britain’s success at London 2012 raised the issue more than ever.Many have disregarded the idea over the years, thinking that darts is more of a ’pastime’ rather than a ‘serious’ sport, and shouldn’t feature amongst the likes of track and field events. A key factor of this theory is that darts lacks the athletic aspect of sport which is what the Olympics is built around, which for me raises the question of why golf will now be featuring at the Rio 2016 Olympics. In golf, you hit a ball, walk a fair bit with someone who carries your clubs, then hit it again, which for me is no more athletic or strenuous than throwing a few darts at a board then walking back and forth to collect them. So the apparent rejection of darts at the Olympics is unlikely stem from the lack of athletic input, nor the concept of the game itself. It’s true that darts isn’t appreciated on a global scale to the extent it is in the UK, which is a logical reason to why it doesn’t feature at the Olympics. And of course, the gravity of competition in darts is nowhere near as great at the golfing rivalry between Europe and the USA. But does it go further than that? Could the disregard for darts in the Olympics simply be down to the reputation it brings?
When considering the reputation in darts, any fan can connect the dots to drinking, chanting and fancy dress. It’s the classic pub game that acts as a social gathering as well as a legitimate sport, which contrasts to the etiquette of many Olympic sports. Even archery, which many consider to be in the same league as darts, has a completely different audience and etiquette due to its traditional values. Other than that, it’s essentially the same thing, just a bigger board, bigger arrow and a greater distance, which the Olympics gladly welcome. Its fair to argue that darts requires just as much, if not more skill than archery as players rely on precision, dexterity and a good eye to land a dart into a space no thicker than an inch from nearly 8ft away. Taking nothing away from the skill involved in archery, obviously you don’t learn how to hit a bulls-eye from 20 meters overnight, but regrettably the skill involved in darts doesn’t seem to have been taken into consideration.
There also seems to be an assumption that the rowdy reputation of darts would bring some sort of social disorder to the Olympics, purely because of what we see on TV. People unfamiliar with darts look at it more as a novelty rather than a serious competition and have the ignorant idea that alcohol consumption is essential when either playing or watching it. Yes, it’s true that darts is the only sport where necking a couple of pints supposedly improves how you play, but then again, there’s not a huge risk of darts players abusing steroids is there. Like any other sport at the Olympics, there’s no question that darts would be well regulated and civilised. Take football for example. Since its birth it’s become one big stereotype for hooliganism and abusive chanting, particularly in this country, and yet, people put aside the stigma and opened it up to the Olympics. There’s no denying that football brings a much greater worldwide demand and audience than darts, but if its capable of being regulated to Olympic standards, then pretty much anything is.
While darts is a competitive game which truly presents a genuine contest, it would undoubtedly raise question marks and criticism over the idea that someone could win Olympic gold just by exercising the use of a forearm, in a ‘sporting’ event. As well as the reputation, it’s easy to form an instant opinion over darts being included in the Olympics just by looking at the ‘sportsmen’ involved, and the notion that someone can become an Olympic hero whilst carrying a well-maintained beer-belly. But the likelihood is that none of this will matter soon. Darts is currently one of the fastest growing sports in the world and is becoming evermore desirable for viewers with the quality displayed at the PDC. Over the years its racked up more and more broadcast coverage and the money pumped into it has become greater and greater. Soon enough, there will come a point where the inclusion of darts at the Olympics will have to be seriously considered when the demand is great enough. After all, the objective of the Olympics is to unite all countries who share the same passion and sporting ability to compete against each other, and inevitably, darts will be no exception.