For as long as I can remember, I’ve listened to my mother’s frustrated pleas as rhytmic gymnasts and badminton players take the Olympic stage: “What about the cross-country runners??!!” Though I certainly share her curiosity (& frustration), I’ve most often replied with something to the tune of “that’s just the way it is”. But why?
An Olympic cross-country meet would induce excitement the world-around. If the competition remained true to the current international standard, viewers might expect a 3,000m Steeple/BMX-hybrid sure to produce gritty champions, a tenacious team battle and, most important of all, filthy falls.
So what is Brazil waiting for? Rio certainly has the hills…
The truth is cross-country WAS an Olympic sport. From 1912-1924 (Stockholm, Berlin (cancelled due to WWI), Antwerp, Paris), a steeple-like course was devised to torture harriers. Sadly, the competition was apparently forgotten about by the IOC after the Parisian course decimated a formidable field of runners on a particularly hot day.
To learn more about the history of the sport of cross-country and why it might have been blacklisted by the Olympic Committee, please read Bill Katovsky’s enlightening article from the Natural Running Center website.
So who will carry the torch in the crusade to reinstate my beloved in the Olympics? Perhaps it will have to be Wings of America. With some luck, we’ll convince Wings board-member Billy Mills to put us in touch with the right people in Switzerland. Who’s with me?