Rick Steelhammer: Athleticism could soon become optional in Olympics

It’s not inconceivable that someone competing in the WV Gaming Championship in Charleston this weekend could become a member of Team USA when the 2024 Olympic Summer Games get underway in Paris.

Strange as it may seem, competitive video gaming, or esports, an activity not normally associated with athleticism, is being considered as a possible medal event in an effort by the organizers of the Paris Olympics to attract more youthful viewers.

“The youth, yes, they are interested in esport and this type of thing,” said Tony Estanguet, co-president of the Paris bid committee, in an interview last week with the Associated Press. “Let’s look at it. Let’s meet them. Let’s see if we can build some bridges.”

While the Paris bid committee meets with the International Olympic Committee in coming weeks to discuss the matter, I think the homegrown winners of Saturday’s “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” competition at the Charleston Town Center mall should be encouraged to continue improving their hand-eye coordination and operational critical thinking skills in a state-run, state-of-the-art training lounge in the basement of the Statehouse — preferably a safe distance away from the drop zone of the slowly slipping Capitol Dome — to enhance their chances of making the national team.

Meanwhile, members of the committee managing the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles can begin planning more new sports to attract other demographics. While the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo will add surfing to its list of medal sports, the Los Angeles games could reach out to non-athletes by introducing a new triathlon event combining channel surfing, speed texting and tweeting.

Speaking of tweeting, our nation’s best-known practitioner of that sport and his equally blustery counterpart from north of the Demilitarized Zone, have not made things easy for the organizers of the 2018 Winter Games, scheduled to begin in South Korea in less than 25 weeks.

As recently as June, South Korea’s sports ministers were holding discussions with their contemporaries in North Korea to look into using Kim Jong-Un’s vast, multi-billion-dollar ski area, completed in 2014 and barely used since, as a venue for some of the 2018 Winter Games’ alpine events. There was also talk about fielding an all-Korean women’s hockey team to help make the 2018 Winter Games a “peace Olympics.”

Nuclear testing, missile launches, saber rattling and inflammatory Tweets and comments since then have caused any further discussion of cooperation between north and south to drop off South Korea’s radar screen — now needed to watch for southbound aircraft and projectiles. Needless to say, ticket sales for the 2018 Winter Games have been slow.

So here’s hoping the most thrilling new development at February’s Winter Games will be the IOC-approved introduction of mixed doubles curling, a slow-motion sport that combines the excitement of bowling, shuffleboard and janitorial skills — and puts them atop an ice rink!

The good news about mixed doubles play? An abbreviated format causes most games to end within an hour, giving fans more time to stretch their legs, tuck into some Korean barbecue, and depending on who’s tweeting what that day, scout out the nearest site to shelter in place.

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