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Should Paintball Be an Olympic Sport?

By July 26, 2012

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Four years ago, at the start of the Beijing Olympics, I posed the question as to whether paintball should be included at some future point. It drew a range of comments both supporting the concept and others not so sure. My general opinion is that it could become one, and that it could help the sport, but that is not obviously the best option for the sport. Let me explain.

In the years that I have been playing the sport there has always been a serious division between tournament players or speedball players and those that play in the woods. While woodsball players make up the vast majority of all paintball players, they also are not generally the most committed to the sport (i.e., they play a few times a year and, while they generally enjoy it, are not on the field every weekend). The tournament players are the ones who not only play the most paintball and spend the most time and effort on the sport, but they are also the ones who are the most vocal about the sport. If you spend any time observing the media coverage of paintball, you'll see that there is a heavy focus on the speedball side of things, even though a minority of players play that variety of the game. When you look at the most famous tournaments and the (admittedly minimal) TV coverage of the sport, the focus is on speedball due to difficulties in spectators on a woodsball field. Most people believe that, if paintball were to become an Olympic sport, it would be based on a variety of speedball.

Now, don't get me wrong, here. I'm not trying to say anything negative about speedball or tournament play as I think it is a great variety of paintball and I do enjoy playing speedball and it has inspired much of the technological innovation and improvements we've seen in guns, accuracy and even paintballs. The fact of the matter is, though, that it represents a minority of the people who play the game. The resulting situation would then be that the face of the game for the world (as the Olympics would provide more exposure to the sport than any other type of media paintball has seen) would be a very, specialized form of the sport. While many people would be introduced to the concept of paintball, they would have a distorted vision of who plays paintball and where.

One other problem that I foresee is that it would further lead to segregate the speedball crowd from the woodsball crowd. While a number of people do play both variations of the game, most are decidedly in one camp or the other, and there is often animosity between the groups. If paintball became an Olympic sport, whichever variation of the game was chosen, adherents would claim it represented a validation of their side, leading to a further division between the different parties.

Not to be a complete downer, though, I also recognize how much good it could provide for the sport. Not only would it introduce millions of people to the basic rules (and hopefully basic safety rules) but it would inspire paintball athletes toward a definite goal. It would further national pride in paintball competition and it would rearrange the culture of tournament paintball as players from different teams would be be brought together to form national teams. The added attention would also lead to increased participation and increased funding in the sport.

So, what do you think. Read the old post and what people thought four years and ago and add your comments below.


July 26, 2012 at 10:57 pm
(1) steve says:

Very good points. I hadn’t even thought of the possible division it could cause. Howver the benifits far out weigh the downfalls. There may be less scenario players should speedball become the olypic sport but the tournament players would still play scenarios and big games as they do now but in reater numbers. Also if more people play then paint prices will probobly o down alittle bit so that makes me happy

July 27, 2012 at 2:07 am
(2) Will says:

Olympic paintball should be a hunt for the flag, letting players use navigation, combat, and teamwork to get medals. Eliminate a team take their flags. Whoever leaves play cashes out their flags. The last remaining team out with the most flags gets gold silver and bronze. Thats woodsball.

July 29, 2012 at 9:04 am
(3) Bregnard Alain says:

Hello, i’m an occasionnal reader from your blog and i’m from Switzerland.
I used to have this discussion in the past when i dealt with regional or national sport organization here in Switzerland or also in France.

The main problem (to become an Olympic game) is that our sport is sadly too much mechanical/electronic-assisted!

Let me explain, similar to driving sports (Formula 1, Racing cars), the physical aspect is existing (yes) but so few considerate and really effective. (but i admit, sweat is there on back on the jersey, anyway… ;D).
In Paintball, the technical aspect is overwhelming the sportive aspect unlikely…

Sad, but deeply realistic, that’s true!

We got a solution too for the future is to go to a more sportive direction, but it will means that the assisted technologie and development of the last years will be dropped out or just skipped.

Hard or also unoriented business-aspect too…

We had to wait some few years to adapt slowly but surely our sport, like others do amongst years.

(Remark: Others sports got also their problems with, by example, swingsuits issues for the swimming competition (permit or not?), or also the Pristorius problem with handicapped leg (is it considerate as assisted or not?). The debate is great!)

But it’s still to be possible to be chosen as “Sport’s Demonstration” like Baseball, Frisbee or others used to be presented in last olympic games.
It could be a good possibility to promote our worldwide sport very young compared to others.

July 30, 2012 at 6:22 pm
(4) Paintball says:

When there is correct rules, and a suitable format paintball could be perceived as a sport. The question is whether that could develop into an olympic sport. I think due to the nature of the game, Stag Parties & Hen Parties it would struggle to get past the Olympic Board.

August 8, 2012 at 2:07 am
(5) Jared says:

As a scenario and tournament player, I have to disagree, while there would be a few people who would be upset, and try to cause segregation. The overall population of the sport would be happy to see it grow, and be recognized. Will, while UWL ball and stuff is cool and fun to watch, and Woodsball/Scenario would be, it is just too hard to make a spectator sport. Plus you do not have AS many serious players take part in. Woodsball and Scenario is more of a recball type of the sport.

I agree a lot with Bregnard. Except I see easy fixes for these problems. The technology side ( I am assuming you are talking about the markers ). Easy, I guarantee one of the big names in paintball (P.E., Empire, Dye, etc.) would supply markers for the olympic games. That way all teams are on the same playing field there. I also think that PSP and NPPL could write up a set of neutral rules if it meant this much of an advancement of our sport.

I personally, think is would be a perfect fit for the olympics. I really, hope that one day it is one. I think we are overlooking so many athletes world wide.

August 14, 2012 at 8:52 pm
(6) Joshsmithers says:

I agree with Jared.

I participate in all aspects of paintball: speedball, woodsball, pump-only games, etc. I’ve seen both sides of the coin.

The truth is that woodsball is a fun variant of paintball, but it’s not very entertaining to watch. By it’s own nature, it’s hard to see an entire woodsball field. Trees, bushes, brush, tall grass, creeks, and hills are just a few of the things that inhibit a spectator’s field of view. Also, because there are many different game variants and types of fields, it is hard to play woodsball in a tournament format. Alas, woodsball is merely a game meant for the player’s enjoyment only, and is not to be taken seriously by the general public.

August 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm
(7) Joshsmithers says:

Speedball, or tournament paintball, is a spectator sport. Tournament paintball did not start out on a small, speedball field. It began in the woods. Games played were mostly 10 vs. 10 players. As we know, hyperball arose as the early tournament scene began. With the invention and acceptance of inflatable bunkers (airball), we began to see the type of tournaments that are played today. Speedball is an ideal choice for serious tournaments to be played. The playing field is symmetrically mirrored, or identical on both sides. There is no unfair “high ground” for either team. Speedball fields, enclosed in safe yet see-through netting, make it easy for fans to watch the games in person. It would be possible to build a small arena or grandstands around a speedball field, much like we have arenas around a football field or basketball court. This is not something that is possible to do with a larger woodsball field. Speedball games also have the unique potential to be broadcast, whether on television or webcast. Lastly, speedball games and statistics (http://paintballaccess.com/player-stats/) are much more reliable when you have referees that can see everything that happens on the field of play. Much less cheating can occur.

Making paintball an Olympic sport is a superb idea. It is already an international sport. But the is no plausible way for the recreational variant, woodsball, to be an Olympic event. We already have well-established speedball tournaments: PSP, NPPL, Millenium, and PALS, to name a few. Speedball is the way the game is meant to be viewed. How someone chooses to play paintball is up to them.

September 11, 2012 at 10:58 am
(8) chriscathro says:

Ok Im late to this thread but I have no doubt that the topic will always remain fresh. I see the point being made in the lead article and agree in part with lots of what other have stated in their responses. I would simply like to add that paintball does not stand alone in many of (if any) of the perceived obstacles to be overcome in elevating it to Olympic status. Take running as the first example- track and field events easy for the spectator x-country, still running but not so easy. Skiing jumping easy, other forms such as x-country not, equestrian sports jumping in arena easy x-country not. I think you get my point. There are other sports with variants on the same thyme in the Olympics and they work well so why can there not be room for both variants of paintball there also. Technology is also not limited to our sport a look at all Olympic sports will clearly demonstrate that. Carbon frames in cycling, archery, shooting sports, swimming, rowing, etc, etc. technology and the advantage it brings is only a problem if it is not applied and controlled and the Olympic organizers seem to be well capable of setting the limits and enforcing them in other sports. Common rules well where is the problem there all other sports have governing bodies so what are we saying? That we are not capable of the same? I understand what others are saying there are challenges to having paintball included as an Olympic sport but what did you expect? There is room for both formats and need for committed people to get it done.

September 14, 2012 at 10:39 am
(9) pb101 says:

paint ball should be an Olympic sport

February 17, 2013 at 5:53 am
(10) TacothePainttballer says:

I’ve always dreamed of playing paintball at the Olympics and I see all of your points but I believe those are things that could easily be worked out. You could create two or three divisions of paintball. As in swimming there are different types (ex. 400m, 200m, and even diving) so create two areas of paintball speedball and woodsball. The one problem I could see is the guns being so technical. But even there you could set the universal gun for the event a year in advance and the team could practice with it. I seriously think paintball needs a chance for exposure.

April 3, 2013 at 11:14 pm
(11) drewb says:

The world is not ready for paintball as an olympic sport. Countries are still much too competive and divided. Paintball would resemble war to too many people. I could only imagine a game of paintball between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Or North Korea and South Korea. Hey maybe it would relieve some tensions. who knows?

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