Everybody wants to be part of the Olympics party in Beijing. So they'll do just about anything to feel like more than just a tourist.
The Bouncing Bulldogs jump rope team from Chapel Hill, NC, gave up a lot to be here. The five-time defending U.S. national champions skipped (pun intended) their world championship, which is held every four years in South Africa, to come to Beijing and stage free, impromptu performances around the Olympic venues. On Wednesday morning, the team watched three U.S. swimmers win gold, and then held a demonstration for spectators outside the Water Cube. Sadly, they only performed their individual speed-rope routines because their double-dutch ropes didn't clear security. [Here, we would insert the really cool video we shot of the girls performing outside the Cube. But we can't, because the footage was shot inside the Olympic Green. Thanks, NBC for your rights bogarting!]
Thursday morning, the 23 jumpers, ages 11 to 19, flipped and skipped outside Beijing's Temple of Heaven with the hope that proselytizing their sport to the masses will help jump rope earn inclusion in a future Olympic Games. Seriously.
"It's on the verge of becoming an Olympic sport," says 17-year-old Maryhunter Benton. "We hope the IOC see what we can do and add us like they added BMX."
Unfortunately, jump rope doesn't have an international federation recognized by the IOC, nor is it one of the sports (or a discipline of an existing sport) currently being considered for inclusion at the Games.
"There are five new sports up for review before 2016," says Emmanuelle Moreau, IOC media relations manager. "Jump rope is not one of them." (Those that are: golf, karate, squash, rollerblading and rugby sevens.)
Moreau says jump rope has not approached the IOC for inclusion, but it is possible the sport has approached other sports federations (gymnastics, for example) and asked to be considered as a new discipline of their sport, in the same way BMX entered under the auspices of the UCI (cycling). But in order for a new sport or discipline to be added, one must be cut, and the chances of trampoline or rhythmic gymnastics getting the axe in favor of jump rope are pretty thin.
Unfortunately, there are many sports like jump rope that believe they are next in line for the Olympics. In reality, they're not even in line at all.
Meanwhile, one former tourist managed to gain entry to the lower levels of The Games VIP club. A few days after arriving in Beijing, this 30-something Harvard grad from New York applied to become an official Olympic volunteer. Like many folks here, he was envious of the nifty blue-and-white shirts he saw thousands of volunteers wearing around the city. "That was honestly my initial reason for volunteering," he says, while browsing Olympic swag at the Adidas superstore across from the Worker's Stadium. Since he speaks several languages, Mr. Harvard (not his real name) assumed he could be of assistance, so he called a main volunteer number and was wearing the blue shirt the next day. (Because he did not go through the extensive media
indoctrination training the other volunteers were required to attend, Mr. H was asked not to speak to the U.S. Media, so we can't tell you his real name. Don't ask again.) Today, he taught an English class to a group of local volunteers. "They were so appreciative," he said.
And hey, he got a free shirt, proof that some Olympic dreams can come true.