June 26, 2013

Lacrosse Moves One Step Closer to Olympics

by Brian Logue | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Still dreaming of lacrosse in the Olympics? Another hurdle has been cleared.

The Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) was named one of three new members of the International World Games Association (IWGA) earlier this month. The IWGA is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and conducts quadrennial world championships for non-Olympic sports.

The acceptance follows the FIL being accepted as a member of SportAccord in May 2012. SportAccord is the umbrella organization for Olympic and non-Olympic sports.

"As much as Sport Accord was about the administrative side of things, this is really about giving the IOC and its members a chance to see our sport," said Stan Cockerton, president of the FIL. "I think it's a huge step."

The IWGA will run the next edition of The World Games in Cali, Columbia from July 25 to August 4 this year. The next games after those will be held in 2017 in Wroclaw, Poland, and the FIL will apply for lacrosse to be a part of the games in Poland as an official sport.

"The IOC attends The World Games and evaluates federations on how they run their championships," said Tom Hayes, director of development for the FIL. "It's a multi-sport event, like a mini-Olympics. It's going to be exciting for the coaches and players and the sport itself."

Hayes attended the IWGA meetings in St. Petersburg, Russia along with Ron Balls, the FIL director of finance. They, and delegates from other sports, met with officials from the IOC as they explained the latest developments in achieving IOC recognition.

One prerequisite for Olympic consideration is that at least 50 countries are playing the sport, up from the previous threshold of 40. Hayes does not see that as an issue. The FIL has swelled to 46 full or associate members in recent years with several other countries close to coming on board.

If lacrosse is accepted into the 2017 World Games there are still a number of details to work out, such as the number of teams, but it is expected to include both men's and women's lacrosse. It's also unclear how that might affect the FIL championship calendar as 2017 is scheduled as a women's World Cup year.

"We've been looking at all of our championships to see if there might be a better way longterm," said Cockerton. "This might force us to look at things a little sooner."

The FIL conducts at least one world championship each year, either at the senior or U19 level, and Cockerton does not see any current championships going away with the addition of The World Games.

"I think the expectation is that we will continue to have all of our championships," said Cockerton. "I think that's consistent with other sports."

For Hayes, honored for his work at developing international lacrosse by being named Lacrosse Magazine's Person of the Year in 2012, the inclusion in The World Games is one more exciting accomplishment on a journey he's helped lead.

"There were a lot of rumors about how lacrosse could get into the Olympics, and we said let's find out instead of having these rumors floating around," said Hayes. "We found out the steps we had to take, we've been checking off the boxes and it's going to happen."

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