Should quidditch be an Olympic sport?

Competitors take part in a match during the 4th Quidditch World Cup in New York City in 2010.

It took until 1984 for synchronized swimming to earn a place as an Olympic sport, almost 100 years after the modern games began. Triathlon was only recognized in the Olympics in 2000, and BMX racing was another new addition in 2008.

All serious and well-known sports, but each took years to become mainstream in enough countries to be considered for the Olympic Games.

Is quidditch the next synchronized swimming? You may know it as the magical broom-riding sport from the fanciful “Harry Potter” books, but to the real-life athletes who play, it’s a serious game — and one they hope to compete in someday during the Olympics.

“It’s not just a ‘Harry Potter’ fan thing, which a lot of people stereotype it as at first glance,” Alex Benepe, commissioner of the International Quidditch Association, told Metro.

Benepe, who started playing quidditch as a Middlebury College student, has watched the game evolve from a intramural past time to an international phenomenon with an official rule book and a World Cup. Players carry brooms between their legs as they run across the field in search of the quaffle (a volleyball) and the snitch (a ball tucked into a sock in the waistband of the ‘snitch runner’).

Ironically, the U.S. dominates the world in quidditch, despite the game’s distinctly British “Harry Potter” roots.

“There is something about the American college culture that was just a natural birthplace for the real-life version of the game,” Benepe explained.

The U.S. has the largest quidditch league, with 600 teams. About 100 other teams come from countries including the U.K., France, Australia and Canada. Though the IQA has yet to take steps to become an official Olympic sport, Benepe said the potential for growth is there as quidditch spreads to other continents.

“We’d need a lot more countries to have a very developed level of the game,” Benepe said. “I think South America will be the next continent to really start forming teams.”

The sport did have a breakthrough moment recently, when quidditch players participated in an exhibition match as the Olympic torch passed through Oxford, England. It was an important step for the game as the athletes who have made it their lives hope to see it recognized on the world’s stage and embraced by everyone — not just “Harry Potter” fans.

“The one message I would give to people — don’t judge it just when you first hear it,” Benepe said. “It’s an awesome game and it’s evolved into a serious sport. I’d encourage everyone to give it a try.”



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