Philip Barker ©ITG

Paris 2024 is the next Summer Olympics on the calendar but the first competition for Los Angeles 2028 has already begun.

The quest for inclusion at the Californian Games is up and running for nine hopeful sports, which are doing their utmost to gain a place.

Baseball-softball, breaking, cricket, flag football, karate, kickboxing, lacrosse, motorsport and squash are all in the frame, as the Olympic tradition of an ever-changing sports programme looks set to continue.

Of those shortlisted, karate was the most recent Olympic debutant at the re-arranged Tokyo 2020 Games last year.

It was held at the famous martial arts arena the Budokan, where judo made its debut at the 1964 Games.

Unlike sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding, which also made their bows in Japan, karate was not invited to make an immediate return at Paris 2024.

This was the same fate suffered by judo, which was summarily dropped after its first appearance at the Games despite an impassioned plea by future FIFA President João Havelange.

That judo did return in 1972 will surely give karate hope for its future on the grandest stage.

Kickboxing is seeking admission after receiving Olympic recognition along with sambo and muaythai last year. The growing television market for mixed martial arts might well help its case.

Cricket is among sports shortlisted for a place at Los Angeles 2028 ©Getty Images
Cricket is among sports shortlisted for a place at Los Angeles 2028 ©Getty Images

When we reach 2024, it will have been a century since the Olympic appearance of another martial art.

Savate, or boxe française, was included at the 1924 Paris Games as a demonstration sport.

Sports have seized the opportunity to be part of the Games thanks to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach's strategy document, Agenda 2020.

This has given host cities the chance to include sports which are attractive to the audience in their home nation.

Until the early 1990s, Games organisers were able to stage demonstration sports, with the big difference that these did not offer Olympic medals.

Sometimes, as with Australian rules football at Melbourne 1956, the appearance was fleeting.

On other occasions, the demonstration provided a pathway to full Olympic acceptance.

This was the case for baseball and softball, which were finally accepted as full sports in 1992 after demonstrations at Los Angeles 1984 and Seoul 1988. Both were jettisoned after Beijing 2008, before being recalled for Tokyo 2020.

Baseball and softball have been fighting for their Olympic lives since the 1912 Games in Stockholm, when two demonstration matches were played.

The Americans challenged local Swedish players with a team comprised of members of the United States athletics squad.

Eight medallists took part, including 3,000 metres team race winner Abel Kiviat, who was also known for sharing a room with Jim Thorpe, the winner of both the pentathlon and decathlon.

Karate appeared on the Olympic programme for the first time at Tokyo 2020, but its presence was short-lived ©Getty Images
Karate appeared on the Olympic programme for the first time at Tokyo 2020, but its presence was short-lived ©Getty Images

Thorpe was also a talented baseball player and took part in one of the matches in Stockholm.

Later, it was revealed that he received a small sum for playing minor league baseball which prompted authorities - operating under strict rules of amateurism - to strip him of his Olympic medals.

They were eventually returned to his family, but he was only recognised once again as the sole Olympic champion earlier this year.

As baseball and softball has not been accepted for Paris 2024, the sports' Olympic fight must now continue, although Los Angeles would seem like an obvious venue.

Cricket is also seeking a place in 2028 but the IOC's concern about athlete numbers could count against another team sport.

It was due to be part of the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, under the supervision of the Marylebone Cricket Club in London.

This proved impossible to arrange, but the sport was played in Paris in 1900, albeit with only one match. A French team, largely drawn from British expatriates living in Paris, and a side from Blundell's School and Castle Cary Cricket Club in the English West Country, locked horns.

Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin had planned for cricket to be part of the Olympics when the Games were originally awarded to Rome for 1908.

However, by the time the Games were reassigned to London, organisers had rejected it along with baseball "because the practice of these games was too restricted in character for the purposes of an international competition".

This is not a charge which can be levelled against cricket in 2022. The International Cricket Council (ICC) rankings include 78 countries for men and 59 for women in T20, the format which would most likely be used in the event of Olympic inclusion.

Breaking is due to make its full Olympic debut at Paris 2024 ©Getty Images
Breaking is due to make its full Olympic debut at Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

The ICC can also point to a hugely successful eight-team competition at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and inclusion at both the African and Asian Games.

Lacrosse, a game rooted in the traditions of the Iroquois people, was included for the first time at the St. Louis Olympics in 1904.

In 1908, a match was played between Canada and England which "proved to be one of unusual interest".

"It was hailed by a crowd, the large majority of whom had assembled to watch the subsequent football match and knew nothing of lacrosse," the official report added.

Lacrosse for both men and women has had World Games inclusion, with an indigenous Iroquois team taking part in Birmingham in Alabama this year.

Flag football also appeared at those Games, and college football was originally included in a list of events for the St. Louis Olympics.

"Owing to the conditions in American colleges, it would be utterly impossible to have an Olympic football championship decided," organisers later admitted.

Despite this, Saint Louis University remained enthusiastic and were joined by Washington and other institutions for a series of exhibition matches.

For many years, the Olympic Charter included a clause which explicitly banned "sports, disciplines or events in which performance depends essentially on mechanical propulsion".  These were described as "not acceptable".

The International Automobile Federation now enjoys the recognition of the IOC, and e-karting  featured at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires as a demonstration event. This might give a clue to the format officials have in mind.

In 1900, the internal combustion engine was all the rage and a series of events were included on the programme for the Paris Exposition, which was attached to the Games in the French capital. To this day, however, no-one is quite sure precisely what events were Olympic or not.

In 1908 in London, the Olympic programme listed motorboating in Southampton Water.

"Only boats propelled by means of internal combustion engines shall be eligible to compete," regulations stated.

The official report said the weather had negatively impacted the competition.

"A strong gale was blowing and heavy sea running made racing an enterprise of some considerable risk," it said. "It robbed it of all its enjoyment, except to the most confirmed enthusiasts."

Breaking will be part of the Olympic programme at Paris 2024 and is hoping to consolidate its place in 2028.

It enjoyed a successful baptism at the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires.

When the IOC makes its decisions for 2028, it will also consider the Olympic future of three long-standing sports.

Boxing was introduced in 1904, and with the exception of 1912 has been contested at every Games since.

Women's boxing finally came in at London 2012, but controversies over governance, finances and judging have put the sport's Olympic future in jeopardy.

Modern pentathlon was introduced 100 years earlier, with rules devised by De Coubertin himself, to find the ultimate Olympian.

Coubertin was prepared to accept alternative suggestions for the sport’s five events, but not at the expense of equestrian which has now been axed amid opposition from many. An obstacle race is poised to join fencing, swimming, running and shooting.

The new format has been piloted this year, and an obstacle race was in fact included at the 1900 Olympics.

It was part of events held on the Seine, with competitors asked to swim part of the course.

Boxing is one of three established sports missing from the provisional Los Angeles 2028 programme ©Getty Images
Boxing is one of three established sports missing from the provisional Los Angeles 2028 programme ©Getty Images

Weightlifting has featured at every Summer Olympics since 1920, and took place at two Games before then, but its place in Los Angeles is also under threat due to a series of doping and governance scandals.

Officials hoping to retain its place need to convince the IOC that the culture of the sport has changed for the better.

The way in which sports are selected has changed many times since the first Olympics in 1896.

The initial prospectus for the maiden Games in Athens laid out different categories.

"Athletic sports" listed track and field events, including a road race from Marathon to Athens, as well as gymnastics and cycling.

"Nautical sports" included swimming, rowing and sailing, which were all due to be held in the sea at Piraeus. In the end, only swimming was possible due to bad weather.

"Combat sports" included fencing and wrestling, a staple of the Olympics in antiquity. "Athletic Games" listed lawn tennis and cricket.

"It will be noticed that equestrianism no longer figures in the programme," a bulletin stated.

"The Greek Committee said that with the resources available it would be difficult to organise a competition which had all the required guarantees, and that in such circumstances, they would prefer to abstain."

Even so, the sports which were held gave encouragement that the Olympic Games had a future.

London 1908 is among editions of the Olympic Games where tug of war was contested ©Getty Images
London 1908 is among editions of the Olympic Games where tug of war was contested ©Getty Images

Although jumping, eventing and dressage were not included formally on the programme until the 1912 Stockholm Games, horses were involved as early as 1900 when polo was included.

This remained a fixture until 1936. Regulations insisted that "no pony showing vice or not under proper control shall be allowed in the Games".

This was not a problem in bicycle polo, which made its only appearance in 1908 as a demonstration sport.

In the years before the First World War, the Olympic programme featured golf, croquet and tug of war which was first included in 1900.

It kept its place until the 1920 Games in London, and was the first medal event at the inaugural World Games in Santa Clara in 1981.

Squash has been trying to force open the Olympic door for many years without success. In 1908, Olympic competition began with the similar "racquet sports" at the Queen’s Club in London.

The first gold medal was won by Evan Noel, almost three months before the Games were officially opened.

"Racquets, it may be noted, is always so expensive a game that, except at the public schools, the number of players is always so restricted which may be a reason for not including it in future programmes for the Olympic Games," a report said.

Indoor tennis, played alongside the grass-court version, also enjoyed a brief spell in the Olympic spotlight.

After the First World War, the discussion on the make-up of the programme intensified and the Olympic Charter began to include lists of "core" and "optional" sports.

Japan won women's softball and men's baseball gold medals at Tokyo 2020, but fans could not attend matches ©Getty Images
Japan won women's softball and men's baseball gold medals at Tokyo 2020, but fans could not attend matches ©Getty Images

But even in the late 1970s, the Charter still included separate criteria for each gender.

"Only sports widely practiced in at least 40 countries and three continents may be included in the programme of the Olympic Games," the regulations for men read.

"Only sports widely practiced by women in 25 countries and two continents may be included."

Women’s rowing was not admitted until 1976, women’s hockey only in 1980 and cycling not until 1984. In the new millennium, the IOC's Olympic Programme Commission drew up evaluation criteria for sports and disciplines.

It ran to 33 points over six pages, and covered subjects such as doping, gender equity, universality and television coverage.

Although the input of host cities is now emphasised in the process, the evaluation criteria still retains considerable importance, particularly in questions about marketing and broadcast potential.

We will have to wait and see which sports make the cut for Los Angeles, as well as beyond.