The Truth About Pole Sport in the Olympics

This interview was shared with us at the USPSF by the International Pole Sports & Arts Federation and we thought it was too important not to share in it’s entirety. Full interview follows:

The truth about Pole Sport in the Olympics

We are here with Gianpaolo Ciavolella, a kind of a living “Encyclopedia” of gymnastics, and sports …. Here’s who Gianpaolo is: a coach from 1992 to 1995 in INTERNATIONAL CAMPS at the OLYMPIC PREPARATION CENTER of the BEKESCSABA in HUNGARY. He is in technical contact with various technical training centres around the world with which he organizes exchanges and joint training. He was the coach of the acrobatics in the national team of Aerobic Gymnastics of Lithuania, participating in the World and European Championships. From 1993 to 2004 he was in charge in the F.G.I. (Italia n Gymnastics Federation) as the Regional Technical Director for the section General Gymnastics. From 1993-1998 Regional Director of the Jury, Regional Manager during the same years for the activities of Aerobic Gymnastics, both professional and amateur. From 1992 to 2004 he held the following positions: Regional Manager in CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) for C.A.S. in gymnastics. Member of various National technical committees and creator of various technical programs for the Italian Gymnastics Federation (Mare di Ginnastica, Gymteam, etc.), Technical Staff Member in CONI (Italian National Olympic Committee) – Bologna. International Judge in UEG (European Union of Gymnastics), the Teamgym (European Championships in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2014) and Head of the Italian Delegation on Teamgym European Championships in Ostrava (CZH) in 2006, Ghent (BEL) in 2008 and Malmo (SWE) in 2010. Head of the Delegation for the Gymnastics Federation of San Marino on Teamgym European Championships in Aarhus (DEN) in 2012.

International Technical Director in General Gymnastics

Italian National Technical Director in Women’s artistic Gymnastics Italian National Judge in Gymnastics for all and Rhythmic Gymnastics Italian National Judge in: Cheerleading, Aesthetic Gymnastics International Technical Director, 5t grade in Cheerleading


Since 1996 Manager/Lecturer for I.G.F. (International Gymnastics Federation) for training and recertification courses for National technicians GFA with International recognition worldwide. Until 2006, National Director of Competition Officials in I.G.F. and Coordinator/Head of the National Olympic and experimental non-competitive activities. He held the position of Head of Italian National Technician for Tumbling, mini trampoline, Teamgym for I.G.F.; Aerobatic trainer for various teams of the Italian National Alpine Skiing Downhill and Slalom, Men and Women. President of the World Technical Commission for the development of Teamgym. National Technical Coordinator for all disciplines under FISAC (Italian Federation of acrobatic and choreographic Sports), Director of the Federal Technical Centre and Coach of the Italian National teams in Teamgym, Tumbling and Mini Trampoline…

I know, we have exaggerated with the curriculum, but it was necessary to make it clear for you, the readers, that we are not interviewing just anybody…

We would like to ask him a few questions to understand better from the mouth of an insider, an expert immersed in political and sports events, how are things really going for Pole Sport and its recognition by the IOC, as well as its inclusion in the Olympic Games.

First of all, thank you for accepting our proposal to be interviewed. Let’s go straight to the point:

For how long have you been interested also in Pole Sport?

G: Since December 2011, i.e. since the FISAC has included this wonderful sport among its disciplines.

And what did you think of this sport? Did you create an opinion?

G: Well, to be honest, I immediately realized that there was a lot of confusion, especially at the international level! There were international federations speaking loud about the imminent entry of the Pole at the Olympics … From what some said, it should have happened already in London in 2012 (laughs).

The problem is that, despite the leaders of these federations have been told the facts, from time to time, even today (on social networks) I still come across absurd posts that advertise “How close we are” to the recognition and inclusion to the Olympics! The worst thing is that these posts are of the same “organizations” which claimed the same thing in 2012. All this does a lot of harm to Pole Sport because it creates misinformation and false expectations.

What do you mean by false expectations?

G: I mean that there are athletes (fortunately not in Europe), who were preparing themselves convinced that they could participate in the 2020 Olympics, or the World Games in 2021 … Someone must have said it to them, wrote them and created the dreams that would never come true … at least not before about 20 years from now (to be optimistic).

Could you explain that better: what does an international Pole Sport federation need to be recognized by the IOC and to go to the Olympics:

G: The road is very long: before appearing at the Olympic Games, a sport represented by an international federation, must be recognized by the IOC, but before the IOC, it must sign the SportAccord. What is SportAccord? It is simply an association that, on behalf of the IOC, deals with “educating” and preparing new sports and new federations waiting to be recognized, to have all the necessary requirements to sign the “Accord.” But please bear in mind that it is not said that the federation which signs SportAccord has an official international recognition (it means you have reached the maturity to be considered a federation at all levels), or that the IOC recognizes it immediately! They can also go for another 10 years before the IOC decides that the sport is a sport. To give you an example, the Cheerleading signed SportAccord about two years ago, but has not yet been recognized by the IOC as a “sport.”

So, which requirements does an international federation need to have in order to sign the SportAccord?

G: The requirements are many and are very clear … That is why I wonder how certain international federations claim to be close to the recognition, without even having a third of what SportAccord asks for! Let’s name them: the International Federation, in order to sign the SportAccord, has to have a minimum of 40 affiliated national federations (scattered among the five continents), it has to organize a continental competition on every continent, has to have a continental federation on every continent (as in all sports) and of course, a huge number of affiliated athletes. Now, if we look closer at the situation of Pole Sport, we can understand how distant we are from having the minimum number of affiliated national federations, continental competitions, continental federations, etc.

We must not forget, that Pole Sport is not the only sport that is waiting to be recognized …. Can I give you some figures concerning, for example, another sport waiting to be recognized by the IOC? Here it is: Cheerleading. The ICU (International Cheerleading Union) has signed the SportAccord with more than 90 affiliated national federations, 5 continental federations, many continental championships, the WADA agreement and a number of affiliated athletes of about 20 million. Nevertheless, the ICU is still waiting (for more than five years), for IOC to say: “You exist”.

So, let’s try to think well about what we say before writing on social networks: “Another step towards the Olympic Games.”


That’s disturbing! … Speaking of the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), what it means to be recognized by WADA? Don’t you think it is another step forward?

G: Of course! It is a very good thing, but it is important to stay down to earth! Being recognized by the WADA, in itself, does not mean that you will be recognized as a sport, but that your sport is listed in the international anti-doping lists. But be careful: the WADA accepts any sports federation which applies to be admitted and pays the affiliation. This means that if you and I invent a new sport, we found an international federation and we make a request to WADA, after examining and observing our request, they accept it. We just have to pay!! (Laughs).

The problem is that the national federations affiliated to this international federation recognized by WADA, will not enjoy the same conditions as the international federation will.

Let me explain: organizing the anti-doping for an international and/or national competition, has very high costs if you organize it on your own (for example: If I organize a competition of a sport not recognized by WADA and I demand the anti-doping, I can get it… but at my own expense!); on the contrary, if I am recognized by WADA, I have no expenses. But only at the international level …

The Pole Sport, not being a recognized sport, cannot have a doping control free of charge provided by the National Olympic Committee in the national field!! And that means that if a national federation has to organize it, it will face a charge of around several thousands of euros … Only for anti-doping!!!

The bureaucracy is very present in sports, which is why these things should be explained to the athletes and to the common people, but let’s get back to the Olympics. Let’s say that Pole Sport has been recognized by the IOC. What should happen in order to be admitted to the Games?

G: Well, as I said, you have to pass by the World Games, the European Olympic Games, from The Mediterranean Games, to those of the Commonwealth … The list is long … Let’s say that in broad terms, it works like this: every 4 years, the nation hosting the Olympic Games, can decide which sports to present as “Demo Sports” … Among these sports, one of them, at most two, can have the possibility to be inserted at the following Games …. Taking into consideration that the Olympics are held every four years … You can do the math!!

But I want to give you examples, so you can understand better: the demo sports that will be presented at the Olympics in Rio in 2016, have been chosen before the Games in London in 2012 … The demo sports that will be in Tokyo in 2020, have already been chosen!

And even if these sports will have the chance to be seen in the Olympics as demo sports, it is absolutely not said that they will be admitted as official sports in the following editions. Want some examples? Karate was a demo sport at the 1988 Games in Seoul … And it will also be one in Tokyo in 2020 … and it is not yet an Olympic sport!

We must never forget that besides all this, the list of sports you expect to become Olympic or to be recognized, is very long! And Pole Sport is very new …

In “Pole  Position” for all future Olympic editions, there are at least 10/15 sports, which have been recognized already at the  World Games, hoping to get in (Aerobic Gymnastics, Acro Sport, Rugby Sevens, Karate, Free Climbing, Skateboarding, Surfing, Softball ….).

Speaking of Demo Sports and the Olympic Games, a few days ago, IPSF announced with a p ost on Facebook page, about the participation for the Games TAFISA (The Association for International Sport of All). This post was titled “Olympic Pole Sports Update”. What is your opinion on that?


G: Yes, I know, I saw the post and I read everything … Well, this proves that what I said about the organizations that continue (as in 2012) to talk about the Olympics, it is absolutely founded!

Firstly: the TAFISA is not a federation, but a Sports Promotion Board. This means that it promotes the recreational sport (amateur), for this reason it says “Sport for All”.

On their website all this is very clear; their mission is to bring and to increase awareness of different cultures, to promote the healthy values (according to De Coubertain) of sport. Participating as guests and doing a performance on their games for Pole Sport is definitely beautiful, but has nothing to do with the Olympics! Unfortunately, the title of this post is misleading and looking at the amount of people who shared it, talking about “How close we are to the Olympics”, makes me very angry! This is misinformation intended by those who wrote that post on Facebook. Unfortunately, I see that the intention is to have “followers” and in order to have them, they do this kind of unclear claim for an audience that has recently set foot in the sports world, ignoring its rules and policies!

The fact that the TAFISA is recognized by the IOC, is something absolutely normal: how many bodies of sports promotion are there in Italy that are recognized by our National Olympic Committee? Dozens!

The IOC, as all the National Olympic Committees, recognizes those organizations that promote amateur sport and its values, so there is nothing sensational to say.

However, the difference between Sports Promotion Board (national or international) and sports federations should be explained …. But perhaps it is more comfortable for some international federations to keep polers in ignorance so they can say anything.

So what do you recommend to those who still speak of Pole Sports in the Olympics?

G: I recommend getting more information… but above  all, I advise everyone to stop making false claims giving false information and hopes to athletes and national federations … Unfortunately, I discovered that several national federations, were founded specifically to join this or that international federation, and unfortunately this means that in most cases, people who fund them, have no past experience or vision in sports, and therefore no appropriate knowledge to understand the sports policy… And this is very dangerous because  it can be  manipulated by international  federations putting around false truths or not fully clarifying what is really happening in the sports policy.

We thank Gianpaolo Ciavolella for clarity and for having finally spoken of how things really are for the Pole Sport in the Olympics.


One thought on “The Truth About Pole Sport in the Olympics”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *