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The Olympics Looks to Connect With New Viewers Through Football, Breaking

Executives, advertisers, TV networks and sports leagues worldwide are constantly striving to keep the attention of a sports audience that’s becoming more focused on social media viral highlights than watching full hours-long games.
Those changing viewing habits have meant lower TV ratings for many traditional sports staples, including the Olympics. Part of the equation for the Olympics includes their streaming partnership with NBC/Peacock and connecting live sports across time zones. It also means expanding their sports offerings, both new and traditional.
Breaking (aka break dancing) will make its Olympic debut next summer in Paris. Sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing will also return after their debut at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a traditional American favorite for the L.A. Games in 2028.
Kit McConnell, International Olympic Committee (IOC) sports director, is pictured on February 22, 2018, in South Korea. McConnell told Newsweek that the IOC is looking to attract new audiences to the Games. Marianna Massey/Getty Images
Why the Olympics Added Breaking
IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell says the reason for adding breaking comes from a commitment to connect with host nations.
“Paris came to us and said, look, our vision about these additional sports is sports that really connect with young people in France are really practiced in urban communities,” McConnell told Newsweek. “A big focus of their Games is reaching out to all of the young people in these huge cities in France, in sports that are easily accessible, and really community-based.”
For all of the new sports, McConnell says the IOC is looking to attract new audiences to the Games in the hopes of raising the profile for all Olympic sports and athletes.
“These sports were brought in because of the young audiences they bring and the young audiences they represent, which has allowed us to engage more directly with these really passionate communities around the world through the athletes themselves,” McConnell said. “And equally elevate these athletes on the Olympic stage to have visibility like they’ve never seen before and introduce these communities of breakers, skateboarders, surfers, sport climbers, to other sports in the Olympic Games.”
American Football Coming in 2028 (Sort Of)
The October 16 announcement of flag football making its debut in 2028 for the Los Angeles Olympics created a buzz throughout the American sports world.
Similar to the Paris addition of breaking, McConnell said the United States brought the idea of flag football as a culturally representative sport. It may not be the traditional tackle football most fans are used to seeing, but flag football does have a big following.
“Flag football obviously is really strong, is part of the same sport as American football and there you know it’s a big international game but in the U.S. unparalleled,” McConnell said. “I think 82 out of the top 100 programs of any kind last year in the U.S. was NFL. Nine out of the top 10 of any kind in the U.S last year, NFL … So flag being a non-contact version of American football really gives us the opportunity to reach out to that American football community.”
While it’s an American tradition, football’s popularity is growing outside the U.S. Since 2005, the NFL has routinely taken the game to neutral international sites. This season, the league scheduled five games in Europe, with three in London and two in Germany.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed excitement about the new Olympic sport.
“The NFL is committed to working together to strengthen flag football’s place in the Olympic movement long term,” Goodell said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing this exciting journey with IFAF, the LA28 Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee, and USA Football.”
With the NFL on board, will tackle football become an Olympic sport? One thing at a time, McConnell says.
“Let’s see in the future,” McConnell said. “Let’s first of all focus on making flag an incredible success that I’m sure it will be in L.A. And then from there, let’s see what happens in the future.”
Marketing Competition to New Audiences
Adding new sports to the Games is one part of the equation. The IOC also needs to engage the audience for those sports.
In their “Let’s Move Street Challenge,” amateur athletes participated in a digital competition that invited enthusiasts worldwide to show their skills. With categories in BMX, breaking and skateboarding, participants submitted 30-second videos of their best moves.
“We’ve really seen a great response from the breaking community as well as the skateboarding and the BMX-free communities,” McConnell said, noting thousands of submissions came in before it was narrowed to a group of finalists.
Voting is currently underway, and those who secure the most votes will get an opportunity to watch their favorite athletes compete in Shanghai, China, in May 2024 for the Olympic Qualifier Series.



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