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Does Paintball Deserve a Place in the Olympics?

By August 13, 2008

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Paintball is a very competitive sport that requires countless hours of practice and effort to master. It's also a fast-paced, exciting sport requiring athleticism and skill. That said, does it belong in the Olympics?

The Olympics were originally designed to mimic the games of ancient Greece with events that simulated the traits necessary to excel as a warrior. In modern times, being able to wrestle isn't nearly as important as being able to shoot. Maybe paintball, then, is a better modern-day way to give reverence to the original theme of the games than anything else. Then again, maybe not.

With the advent of modern technology, events that never were part of the original Olympics have been added including air rifle events. If the air rifle is Olympic worthy, surely the paintball gun couldn't be discounted simply because of its modern technology. In my opinion, the real reason paintball will never make it into the Olympics and doesn't deserve a place in the Olympics is because it is a fringe sport with no set rules and a negative image.

While basic rules of paintball remain the same, a game in an NPPL tournament or a PSP event are very different. If you compare those rules with backyard capture the flag or SPPL, the differences are even more apparent. The IOC could simply decide to adopt one of the game formats at the expense of all others, but that still wouldn't increase the sport's popularity or change its image.

I've read figures that claim 10 million people play paintball in the United States. While this is slightly misleading since the numbers are skewed to include people who have played paintball once in the past year, that is still a large number of people. If 10 million people have also played the sport in the rest of the world, there seems like an adequate fan base to justify the inclusion of the sport. The problem, though, is that 20 million people (being very generous with my estimates) who play paintball is still only 1/315th of the world's population. Of these people who do play, very few live in big cities and that's a problem.

If you search for "paintball" in New York City, you only get five hits (and two are in New Jersey) while "gymnastics" returns 82 and "fishing" returns over 900. More than half of the world's population lives in big cities and most simply don't have access to the sport. To make matters worse, many of the members of the International Olympic Committee live in these big cities. To them, paintball is a quaint event similar to NASCAR and Roller Derby - millions may enjoy it but it's not an international sport. Even Baseball and Softball have been dropped from the Olympics since they primarily appeal to Americans. If these sports that appeal to millions and millions of very devoted fans don't appeal to the international community, why would paintball?

One final problem that paintball has is that its image to many non-players is quite negative. I've talked to countless people about paintball and many non-players can't believe that I would play such a violent sport. With a little bit of explanation about the safety of the sport, they usually have a better idea of it, but there's no way that this image is going to change any time soon.

Is it impossible for paintball to make it to the Olympics? Of course not. One group has even started a petition requesting that it be accepted. If they succeed, I will be very happy for the exposure the sport receives, though my guess is that paintball will never become an Olympic sport. While it's a wonderful sport that can be enjoyed by almost anyone, I think it is better suited to individual tournaments and backyard play than to a rigid, formalized structure that the Olympics would provide. Paintball would probably be my best chance at ever becoming an Olympic athlete, but if I never get that chance, I'll be just fine.


August 14, 2008 at 11:33 am
(1) Ian M. says:

so… i’m a new kid in paitball… i’m getting my first gun in two days (my birthday) and i’m just wondering what you mean when you say paintball has a negative image. could you explain?

August 14, 2008 at 12:23 pm
(2) Ian says:

so i was reading your articles on paintball and you taught me a ton of stuff! thanks for taking the time to write all that… i mean after i get my gun i was all set to upgrade it with a high end 20 inch barrel…. but now i’ll see how accurate my gun shoots and if necessary i will buy a medium grade 12 or 14 inch barrel.

so what do you think of the Spyder MR1? and thanks again!

August 16, 2008 at 9:01 pm
(3) James W. says:

The MR1 is a decent starter gun, but to my knowledge doesn’t have a very tournament friendly trigger. I would go with either the new pilot or electra, or if you’ve got a just a bit more cash to spend, the smart parts ion is a good bet. These guns are much more fun to play with and are more easliy upgraded (if you decide you like the sport). They’re also not too pricey compared to some of the guns out there.

Hope this helps!

August 20, 2008 at 5:44 am
(4) D3ATHS H3AD says:

Paintball in the Olympics? Probally not.Why? Because it DOES have a negative image. I love it myself, but lets face it, you have a very real looking “gun”, and you are pointing it and actually shooting other people.Hmmmmmm!Anyhow…Keep the paint flying….Game on!!!!!

August 20, 2008 at 3:19 pm
(5) C H U N K says:

YES, paintball should be in the Olympics. Iv been playing paintball for over four years. I seen different seasons of paintballin night ,sunny,and raining games. it is a hard, aggressive,competitive and a strategic game. just like the Olympics where you must practice to better your self and your team mates. But then again paintballing is not for everyone so if you like it you like it, if you don’t well don’t play. The Olympics have other sports where you shoot something to hit something whether is a bow an arrow or a shot gun then why not paintballing. Paintballing Is a sport no matter how you look at it.

August 20, 2008 at 6:51 pm
(6) David Copeland says:

Paintball in the Olympics can and will happen sooner or latter. Just like any sport that has been added, Air rifle is not a good example of it. Using a sport that was added to the sport more that a decade ago in Olympic years doesnt compare to what has been added to the Olympics recently. Snowboarding, mountain bike course, ext. By adding a sport that has a negitive setting is not the right way to put it. We do have other events that are as aggressive as paintball “Fincing”. As long as the sport has some what a team work and ability for showing growth of knowledge on the sport, it should be concidered. The grouth of the sport is growing every year. Can you say that you have gone swimming, tried to do a backflip, shot a rifle, dove into a pool. If you said yes to any of them you have tried something that is in the Olympics. You may not do it everyday or take it serious of diving in the pool other than you have tried it before. Olympic players have take it serious about diving into a pool or swimming some laps and shooting a rafle, and now they are in the Olympics winning the Gold for there country. They have that opitunity for it. Now can anyone say yes to tyring paintball or found any intress in paintball. Yes most young adults will, and for the NPPL, PSP, SPPL, theya are different ways to play paintball but there are different way to swim or shoot a rifle. It is not a problem if you live in the middle of the woods or live in the middle of no were if someone love the sport of paintball, Lives, sleep and cant stop playing paintball they will find out a way to play paintball just the same way as a swimmer that lives in the middle of the desert will find a gym to swim at. Paintball is the fastest growing sport in 2009 and has been on the top 5 sports for being the safest sport, safer than golf! I have been to the top playing paintball and I will be very happy to see it be a new sport added. I hope it is added it will bring a different group, nature, crew or what ever you want to call it “Croud” to the Olympics

August 25, 2008 at 12:38 pm
(7) Joe Dellwo says:

I don’t think paintball will ever be an Olympic sport until we can find ways to prevent cheating.

With the amount of technology that goes into markers and the referee’s inability to govern cheater boards, the IOC would have to place strict restrictions on markers.

I think most of us strive to play fair, but it only takes a few people to ruin it for all.

Until we can make sure the field of play is level for all, and our individual skills, not our markers, are put to the test, the sport of paintball will never be accepted in Olympic competition.

August 27, 2008 at 12:06 pm
(8) Rob says:

I agree about the cheating aspect of it.

It is unfortunate, but with the amount of wiping (which displays a complete lack of integrity), cheater boards, etc, there isn’t much sport left in tourney ball.

It is more about who can dump more paint onto a bunker in a given period of time, and what you can get away with when no one is looking.

August 29, 2008 at 2:58 pm
(9) Johnathan says:

I think the aspects of cheating and image will have a far greater impact on whether Paintball is accepted than the number of players. Look up javelin and see how many show up, or discus. Though I can’t back it up with numbers, I would assume that more people play paintball than do synchronized swimming.

Cheating can happen in any sport, so while I do think it would have to be considered, I think the results would be similar to any other sport… very strict and precise rules to ensure an even playing field from an equipment point of view.

Image though… that’s key to the Olympic games. Through more education about paintball I think that’s theres a good chance that it will be in one day. After all… BMX was there this year.

September 4, 2008 at 9:19 am
(10) Sandwolf says:

even though most people argue that it is too “violent” to put in the Olympics ( which is a good reason) there is no way they are keep it out. it’s exciting, fast paced, and just plain fun. I am confident that it will be an Olympic sport very soon.

March 12, 2009 at 10:11 am
(11) Aaron says:

you need to actually play the sport not just play to games and say its very violent you have no idea we love each other out on the field we dont have a strong hatered towards any one so yeah you chill it will make it into the olympics BEAT DOWN…… CITY!!!!

August 27, 2009 at 10:58 pm
(12) Robert says:

yah it should its just like other sports its like soccer and football you need team work and it should be an olympic sport

October 18, 2009 at 6:36 am
(13) actualplayer says:

“doesn’t deserve a place in the Olympics is because it is a fringe sport with no set rules and a negative image. ”

Had hope for it till i got to that. Then it all went to F*ck you buddy. Go play the sport, you obviously never have played it, and if you have, you picked up a POS walmart marker and played in a backyard outlaw game.

November 3, 2009 at 12:44 pm
(14) someone better than you says:

ummmmm im pretty sure paintball has set rules relying on your “division” and if ping pong is a sport in the olympics and “target shooting” and also trap and skeet. paintball deffinately deserves a spot

November 3, 2009 at 12:48 pm
(15) someone better than you says:

umm id like to know how paintball guns look “real” they have a huge loader on the top, a tank in the back however airsoft DOES have a negative image and those guns DO look “real”

November 12, 2009 at 11:02 am
(16) AIRSOFT BLOWS says:

PLESE airsoft sucks my left nut

January 14, 2010 at 3:42 pm
(17) junkee says:

agreed, and .50 cal paintball is on your right nut.

February 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm
(18) kynan stenson says:

i have spyder sonix 2009 for sale for 90.00 call me if what a good beggier gun great all types of paintball call 1780-582-3566

February 15, 2010 at 2:28 am
(19) Jesse says:

Hi you say the fan base is only 1 to 315…but l bet it is still alot more than curling and things like hop skip jump!!

February 17, 2010 at 9:25 pm
(20) Zach says:

maybe if the sport is adopted by the x-games…its popularity will grow and then it might be considered an international sport…….but also even local players that i play with have made it to different states, and they won 2nd in sppl master devision nationals(failure to flatline) and even one of those players has gone on to play in belguim! now dont tell me thats not international….

February 18, 2010 at 8:18 am
(21) VelociRaptor says:

Wow, paintball should be in the olympics! It does all those characteristics that anyother sport has. I mean I go playing with my friend thats in Division II in paintball and we both have top of the line guns. Him and I both have an 09 ego and we love shootin eachother up.

February 18, 2010 at 5:48 pm
(22) GRIFF LEE says:

PAINTBALL dose not have a negetive imige. it acshuly calms me down. Also it is a vary safe sport. I belive it should be in the olimpics, and it is growing into a big sport. In adition it is a vary fast paced game. I am not saying that it shouid be the biggest sport but it should be in the olimpics. It also bilds alot of teamwork.

February 21, 2010 at 12:34 am
(23) Finnzo says:

I would love paintball in the olympics and if it did get in they should make standerd markers that you get at the olympics not your own custom one and with the amount of cameras they would have no one would be stupid enough to cheat.

November 8, 2010 at 4:59 pm
(24) joe says:

I think that if paintball was a sport in the olympics. We would need to go with the rules of world cup from nppl. It probably has the largest fan base.

April 13, 2011 at 2:18 pm
(25) adam says:

piantball should be allowed in the olympics! One because it is played all over the world, secondly you might be aiming a non fatal gun at someone, but 9 times out of 10 your not actually trying to hurt someone with it. Paintball take a tremendious amount of skill, disapline, and perseverance exspecally at an olmpic level. And besides, it’s one of the greatest sports to play, and watch.

July 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm
(26) Cory van Dijk says:

I have to say i disagree with the “it is not an international sport” part. I’m from Australia and there are plenty of places (moreso in big cities) to play paintball and tournaments. I recently came back from a trip around Europe which included Singapore, Frankfurt, Paris, Hamburg, etc and all of which are involved with paintball. The example of NASCAR or Roller Derby being so huge isn’t true, we don’t even have that in Australia and neither did any of the European places i went to. like AFL here, it’s huge, i would say 80% of all Aussies are obcessed with it, but that’s only an Aussie sport, not played anywhere else.

Paintball is an Internationally played and recognised sport and i wouldnt be suprised to see the NPPL, PSP, Millenuim Series, Singapore Paintball Series, Australian Paintball Players League, etc etc all joined together playing Paintball at the Olympics.

You don’t call Paintball an Olympic sport but how is dancing with a long pink ribon on a stick an Olympic sport? Or hanging from two rings on ropes? is doing that “necessary to excel as a warrior”?

August 23, 2011 at 5:10 am
(27) NUMBERZ 5465 says:

Yes paintball is seen as a very agressive sport but it is actually a very safe sport. Also Grid iron isn’t the most friendly sport either. So I reckon paintball should be in the Olympics because not everyone has to like it

August 23, 2011 at 5:17 am
(28) NUMBERZ 5465 says:

If they wear suits that detect when a paintball his them cheating wouldn’t be a problem.

August 23, 2011 at 5:18 am
(29) NUMBERZ 5465 says:

If they wear suits that detect when a paintball hits them cheating wouldn’t be a problem.

August 23, 2011 at 5:23 am
(30) NUMBERZ 5465 says:

Paintball… Doesn’t the word tell you that they aren’t using real bullets!

July 29, 2012 at 5:06 pm
(31) Chaswell says:

And boxing doesn’t have a negative image? Who the hell plays water polo?

July 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm
(32) Chad says:

Paintball’s “negative” Image is based off the thought of shooting Others, no doubt everyone who plays knows its not. I play Division 1 in NPPL, PSP, MS, and even NPL. Now the rules do change in each tournament, as the layout as well, but the same basic concept is there in each tournament. If the Olympic Comittee read each set of rules in each major league (NPPL, PSP, MS), they could come up with their own set of rules. As people may have a bad thought when it cokes to paintball, the sport is still growing each year, even on TV (NCPA CHAMPIONSHIP shown on FOX COLLEGE SPORTS) and the views on videos from Social Paintball and HK ARMY are massive. And even Asia has their own international league (DYNASTY PLAYED IN IT) Each Continent has a major league. Speedwalking is a Olympic Sport, but paintball isn’t? Paintball is more fun to watch than any other sport, being one of the most aggressive sport of our time. They should AT LEAST consider paintball as a Olympic Sport.

August 6, 2012 at 5:34 pm
(33) Brian says:

Paintball may have a negative image, but lets look at the facts here. Its still the safest sport that has ever existed. There have been little to no deaths or injuries resulting from the game. If more people knew that, then this sport would get an even larger appeal than it already has. Yes the rules do change from league to league, but there are still set rules that are always followed. Honestly, theres a sport that involves making horses “dance”. How is that sport more widely practiced than paintball

August 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm
(34) Chris says:

I feel paintball would be a great Olympic sport because if your actually into paintball you will see that it is a worldwide sport.. And you guys say it’s negative because it looks like a real gun? What guns look colorful?.. I feel it’s a competitive sport and would fit well in the Olympics if it was as a speedball set up.

September 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm
(35) Matt says:

Ian. M,
by that he means that many people view it as a violent sport,
as if you were trying to deduce a sort of sadistic pleasure from it.
Even though those who play it and most teen-25 year olds know that it is just a fun and enjoyable sport,
people over 30, more so parents, view it as far too violent.
all though the players know better, there’s just a stigma to it that gets more attention than it should, you can convince others otherwise, but the public opinion isn’t going to change anytime soon.

September 22, 2012 at 11:11 am
(36) Chad says:

No paintball shouldn’t be an Olympic sport, especially if it will be in a speedball format. There are too many teams that practice wiping and cheating in various forms. It would do more harm than good by allowing this sport into the Olympics. And before you go off half cocked saying hater blah blah.. I own a paintball field… a very large one…and I am still saying NO it should not be allowed. I sit here week after week tournament after tournament and watch cheating upon cheating. When these teams realize that only hard work , fair and honest play will only get you ahead then by all means open up the gates and put it in the Olympics but until that day… hell no. It is truely a sad thing to say … especially when I see good teams that play by the rules and value the true tradition of the sport. The lesser teams ruin it for everyone and unfortunately cheating has become the accepted thing to do.

October 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm
(37) Evren says:

The arguments you’re giving against paintball are so subjective. You may think that paintball is not an internationally recognised sport but I bet it’s way more common than water polo, hurdles, steeplechase, shot put, discus throw, javelin throw, hammer throw, BMX, curling or bobsleigh. Many of these sports owe their existance in today’s world to the olympics as others took their place in the olympics because they’re just fun to watch. Watching paintball is as fun as watching any of the above and it’s more widespread then most of them.
The thing about the negative image is just an illusion. As paintball is a very young sport, people are having difficulty accepting and regarding paintball as an ordinary sport. Most people, even most of us see paintball as an extreme sport which is way far from the truth. Even if it’s an incredibly exciting sport, you could even consider it “boring” when you look at it from the safety aspect.
Yeah, we’re shooting each other with fancy guns and fast flying projectiles but fencers try to pierce each other with swords and boxers beat the hell out of each other not to mention judo and taekwondo. Paintball is no way as violent as boxing or taekwondo. It just needs time to gain acceptance as a safe sport and we are the ones who have to take the most of the responsiblity of promoting it…

October 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm
(38) Evren says:

…For the matter of rules… I think it’s the most important point of this article as paintball really needs a widely recognized and used set of rules. There are too many different rules used in different continents or even divisions and that makes paintball seem unprofessional. I think paintball needs an intercontinental federation just like fifa or fiba and use the same set of rules in every major series on any continent. I personally think Millennium and PSP have the most reasonable rules and a set consisting of a mixture of these should be fantastic. Anyway, the point is that paintball needs a single set -two at most for lower divisions- of common rules to be applied across the globe.
And I sincerely believe that paintball will be in the olympics, sooner than we all expect.

January 19, 2013 at 7:22 pm
(39) Drew says:

No rules dude read the PSP rule book and then tell me there are no rules 28 pages

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