Can Ultimate Frisbee Greenwash the IOC?

Ultimate frisbee has now been recognized by the International Olympics Committee. (Credit: Dan Klotz)
Ultimate frisbee has now been recognized by the International Olympics Committee. (Photo of Sanjeev Khanna at 2012 USAU National Championships, Grandmaster Division. Credit: Dan Klotz)

The Ultimate Frisbee community has been buzzing this week with the news that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) has finally recognized its sport. Critics wondered whether a defiantly counter-culture sport can continue to grow as part of mainstream culture, and others braced for yet another round of jokes at the expense of the sport’s dignity, including the inevitable Frisbee dog jokes.

But the recognition of Ultimate Frisbee also puts a different spin on what has been a difficult summer of Olympics news. The IOC this week awarded the 2022 Olympics to Beijing, the first host city to not come from a snowy mountain climate. The skiing and snowboarding—not to mention the luge runs—will take place in Yanqing, a city just over 50 miles away from Beijing and which gets two inches of snow a year, and Zhangjiakou, which is 100 miles away from Beijing (next to the Gobi desert) and gets eight inches of snow a year.

One might equate this decision with that of the desert country of Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup. Perhaps that will be the international year of crazy sports tournaments, and the world will return to normal on New Year’s Day 2023.

But Beijing is not the only Olympics story competing with Ultimate Frisbee for attention. Athletes and officials are increasingly concerned about the safety of holding races in the waters surrounding Rio de Janeiro, the host city of next year’s summer Olympics. The lede from a recent Associated Press feature says it all:

“Athletes in next year’s Summer Olympics here will be swimming and boating in waters so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and —> Read More