Lacrosse is on a shortlist to be added for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Sports leaders are optimistic. – Baltimore Sun

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The summer of lacrosse continues.

Between last month’s Women’s World Championship at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, Wednesday’s Men’s World Championship in Ireland and the professional seasons of the Premier Lacrosse League and Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse, news has surfaced last week that lacrosse is one of nine sports shortlisted for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

“It’s been an amazing summer coming out of the World Championships and heading into the AU season,” said Athletes Unlimited Founder and CEO Jon Patricof. “It’s just spectacular. So the enthusiasm I see at all levels has never been higher.

At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, World Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body, will launch a campaign to boost its bid to return to the Olympics, where lacrosse was a medal-winning sport at the 1904 and 1908 Games in St. Louis and London, respectively. , and a demonstration sport in 1928 in Amsterdam, 1932 in Los Angeles and 1948 in London.

Titled “LAX: Indigenous Made, Globally Played” and using the social media hashtag #LAX28, the promotion is designed to showcase the sport’s heritage and Olympic credentials and show its breadth as an international sport with communities in 77 countries that sponsor men’s and women’s lacrosse. .

“The prospect of the sport being in the Olympics just adds more energy and fuel to what is already a tremendous amount of momentum that exists,” Patricof said.

A campaign video will be shared on World Lacrosse social media platforms and International Federation member nations and four continental federations. Professional leagues – including Athletes Unlimited, the National Lacrosse League and the PLL – will also participate.

“I think there’s no better game to reintroduce to the Olympics than North America’s premier game,” Premier Lacrosse League co-founder and former All-American midfielder Johns Hopkins wrote. Paul Rabil, in an email. “The amount of collective effort it has taken to get to this moment is special, and we are proud to be part of the continued growth professionally and internationally.”

The timing is intentional as Tuesday is also the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Lacrosse was first played by Native American communities in North America as early as the 1100s.

“It’s a great day to celebrate this gift they have given to all of us, and we hope we can share lacrosse with a wider global audience if we are included in the Olympics,” said Jim Scherr, CEO of World Lacrosse.

Lacrosse is one of nine sports invited by the Los Angeles Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee’s Programming Commission to present its case for inclusion at the 2028 Games. The others are baseball-softball, breakdancing , cricket, flag football, karate, kickboxing, motorsport and squash.

While Scherr said a timeline for presentations is uncertain, he said the Los Angeles Organizing Committee and IOC Programming Commission should make their recommendations to the IOC Executive Board later this year or early next year.

It’s an incredibly tense time for us because we’re in the middle of this process. But if we’re not there, we will continue to work towards Olympic inclusion,” Scherr said. “We have a strong Olympic history since 1948 and we want to bring the game back to the Olympics.”

Longtime supporters of the sport have pointed to its growth around the world. The number of women’s national teams that have qualified for the World Championship has grown from 27 in 2017 to almost 40 in 2021. The World Championships have generated more than 6 million minutes watched digitally on ESPN.

The World Under-21 Championship is set to begin with eight men’s teams making their debuts in the tournament: Jamaica, Kenya, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Puerto Rico, Sweden and Uganda.

In the United States, more than 2 million people play lacrosse, according to World Lacrosse. The sport at the NCAA level has expanded to 912 teams with more than 28,000 athletes.

In April, Athletes Unlimited and ESPN announced a partnership to broadcast every game on the media giant’s platform. And in June, a Premier Lacrosse League game on ABC averaged 452,000 viewers with a record total of 623,000, making it the most-watched outdoor professional lacrosse game in history.

Patricof of Athletes Unlimited said the sport is connecting with more casual fans and growing accordingly.

“Having our games on ESPN and ESPN+ not only makes them available in the United States, but also around the world, and that has been an important part of the overall strategies that we put in place,” he said. “That’s a big part of what the Olympics says in terms of the global movement, which we’re all trying to reach and provide content for lacrosse families, but we’re also trying to expand the sport much more broadly. , create hotspots, and introduce new players to the game.

To further attract interest from international viewers, Lacrosse proposed to move to a 6v6 format for both genders for the Olympic game from the 10v10 and 12v12 competition in the men’s and women’s games, respectively. . Combined with shot clocks, smaller pitches and face-offs only to start quarters, the smaller format will promote an attacking strategy that emphasizes speed and skill.

Rabil, of the Premier Lacrosse League, said the Sixes game, as the new format is called, can attract newcomers.

“This version of Lacrosse will be a fan favorite,” he wrote in an email. “So it behooves the presentation of our sport to articulate that and convey the community feeling of the game’s story.”

New sports have recently gained a foothold at the Olympic level. The 2020 Games in Tokyo added baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. Breakdancing will join skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing at the 2024 Games in Paris.

Although he stressed that past results are not an indicator of future results, Scherr said he believes lacrosse’s bid for the 2028 Games is strong.

“Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in North America and one of the fastest growing sports in the world and the fastest growing team sport in the world. So we’re really optimistic from that perspective,” he said. “But I also think lacrosse and the values ​​of the game transcend the Olympic arena very well, and it’s an incredibly exciting sport. … I think it would be a great addition to the Los Angeles Games.

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