It isn’t going to happen.
Shooting a compound bow is fun. There are loads of competitive venues. Loads of people shoot compound bows. Why on Earth aren’t compound bows in the Olympic games?
An upper level archery coach told me, “Oh, compound bows will be in the Olympics.” He added that compound bow competitions would be part of the Winter Games and would be contested at 18 meters. It sounded good a the time.
The coach sounded as if he had insider knowledge. Thus far his prediction hasn’t come true. It won’t.
Experts in archery as well as those folks on the International Olympic Committees (IOC) have pointed out that compound bow archery isn’t mainstream in all countries. There isn’t the same merchandise available globally and this would place some countries at a disadvantage. That was a rationale years ago. This isn’t a solid argument today or is it? (It is a reliable fall back.) That isn’t the only reason why compound bows aren’t in the Olympics.
Here are some of the reasons we won’t see compound bows in the Olympics:
Too many perfect scores is the problem. What – that’s crazy you say. Nope it’s real for 18 meters and would bust the Winter Olympic 18-meter potential.
Take a look at the 2022 Vegas shoot. There you can watch some of the best ‘recurve’ archers in the world with ‘a’ recurve archer scoring a 300 on the opening day (Brady Ellison). (1) On the same day 3 young adult compound bow archers scored a 300 and a total of 85 compound bow archers scored a 300. (1)
How would the IOC even develop qualifying levels for a sport where so many athletes achieve a perfect score? Where is the drama of the competition for viewers not familiar with the sport? Sure there are methods for checking closest to the ‘X’. And while judges pull out calipers, flashlights and magnifying glasses television viewers are changing channels or clicking over to stream snowboarding. Tight measurements might be exciting a time or two but the non-archer Olympic game viewer, the one that needs to get a new cell phone, new truck, buy some beer, requires legal help, or needs to control their medical ailment with the latest big-pharma release, is going to miss the commercials instructing them to buy here. They’ve changed the channel instead of waiting for the judges to perform their duties. Watch a downhill skier crash means sitting through those commercials to learn the gruesome outcome.
Nope, indoor 18-meter as a potential venue for compound bow in the Olympics isn’t going to happen.
Then there’s compound bows competing at 50-meters. Why would the IOC care to have compound bows shooting at 50-meters when they already have recurve bows competing from 70-meters. Sure the compound bow target’s diameter is smaller than the recurve’s but that isn’t enough to make it worth an IOC change.
The idea of compound bow archery at 50-meters is further dashed when you take a look at the scores of compound bow archers at 50 meters. For example consider the 2021 USA Archery Outdoor Nationals. Specifically review the qualifying scores for compound at 50- meters versus recurve at 70-meters. (2)
The average score of the top four male archers shooting compound bows was 1410 points out of 1440. They achieved 98% of a perfect score. The top four recurve archers, which included three Olympians at 70-meters achieved 94% toward a perfect score with an average of 1350 out of 1440. Nope, the IOC isn’t going add a sport where perfection is already close at hand and there’s no risk of a spectacular crash to engage the viewer. A compound bow archer makes a mistake then scores a 9, a ski jumper screws up and that’s a broken leg. Everyone is talking about the accident the next day at work. That night after work viewers are tuned in – waiting for the next Olympic emergency. In this case the IOC would fall back on the argument that the compound bow advantage will fall towards western European and US athletes.
What about 3-D? I think that would work for compound archers especially if rangefinders are not allowed, the maximum distance is 45 meters and hunting style bow configuration is the standard. In other words no long stabilizers and sight pins only. Archers in the “IBO” Pro-Hunter Division do this from 45 yards rather than 45 meters. If I recall when the IBO (International Bowhunters Organization) opened this class the maximum distance was 50 yards (roughly 45 meters).Whether the distance is 45 yards or 50 yards the measure would be meters so folks outside the US would understand. However, the western European US advantage argument still applies. This objection also applies to field archery using compound bows.
There is also the logistics of adding another sport that requires a large field of play for an outdoor activity. Adding a 3-D range or field archery range for compound bows is possible but in too many cases it may limit the countries and their cities from trying to win an Olympic Game.
Both 3-D and field archery would mean fitting them into the Summer Games. Imagine trying to compete in 3-D or field archery during February in Salt Lake City, Nagano or Beijing. (As I write this it is 31° F or-0.5° C in Yankton, SD, the same as in Athens, GA)
The pool of athletes is another consideration. Certainly there are some expert compound bow archers outside the US. The US has a population of 335 million. Of the US population 18.9 million people over the age of 18 are active in archery. (3) That is more people that make up the populations 70% of the world’s countries. (4) Four US States have a greater population than 70% of the world’s countries! (5)
And the US has by far the best companies manufacturing compound bows. Plus we are the 13th wealthiest country per capita. (6) Can you image the money our country could put into archery if compound bows were in the Olympics?
If the IOC permitted compound archery in the Olympics the US would dominate the sport to a greater degree than swimming, track and field or even basketball. It simply isn’t going to happen.