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Dancing His Way To Olympics

Wed., April 19, 1995

If you need me, call Arthur Murray. I’m in training. One, two, three, step. One, two, three, step. One, two, three, uh, sorry. I’m sure that will heal. Obviously, I still need some work. But I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m learning to ballroom dance. I’m going to fox trot my way to the gold medal, waltz off with a silver, tango to a bronze. This is my dream. This is my destiny.

I’m going to dance in the Olympics.

Ballroom dancing, you see, might someday become an Olympic sport.

I’m not making this up. Honest. International Olympic Committee officials elected to give ballroom dancing provisional recognition this month in Monte Carlo, Monaco. They recognized the Ballroom Dancing Federation, which is the first of several steps on the long road toward inclusion in the Games, possibly within five years.

Whether ballroom dancing is a sport or an art form, of course, is a subject of much debate in Olympic circles.

All I know is I sweat, get out of breath and bump into people when I dance, which is my definition of a sport. (That’s why I also consider riding a New York subway, mall shopping and certain courtship rituals to be sports, as well.)

In addition to ballroom dancing, the IOC has given provisional recognition to surfing. But surfing scares me. The most frightening thing about dancing is working up the courage to ask a woman if she is willing to be seen in public with me and risk having her toes stepped on. Nobody ever was sucked into the undertow on a dance floor. Nobody I know, anyway.

Ballroom dancing joins golf, karate, roller skating, trampolining, water skiing and squash on the list of would-be Olympic sports, hoping to join the list of medal sports such as the steeplechase, curling and that rhythmic gymnastics thing with the hoop, the stick and the ribbons.

Others on the wanna-be list are somewhat more arcane, such as: alpinism, which is mountain climbing; orienteering, which involves reading a map with a compass; and netball, which, I’m told, is a bizarre variation on basketball that almost no one in this country plays.

I probably could be a great Olympic netball player, too. But first things first. I’m a dancing fool. I’ve got happy feet. I’m going for the gold. I’m going to get endorsements - for Wheaties, for Nike, for Dr. Scholl’s.

Look, I know what you’re thinking. But the whole idea of what is an Olympic sport has dogged the IOC from its inception. Tug-of-war once was an Olympic sport, but it didn’t have enough pull.

Squash, water skiing, triathlon and karate each were included at this year’s Pan American Games. Racquetball, bowling, tae kwon do, roller skating and roller hockey have been included in the Pan Am Games before. But the IOC which has plenty of weird sports already, thank you - has yet to bite.

If the IOC were to take on bowling, for example, who knows where it would end? Pie-eating? Belly-flop contests? Hopscotch?

But ballroom dancing - that’s dignified.

Besides, I’ve already bought a cummerbund.


 
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