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.