Pole dancing now recognised by international sports body - leaving the door open to inclusion in the Olympics

Telegraph Reporters
Pole dancing - AFP

It was was once considered a risqué pursuit, performed in front of a paying clientele at late night establishments.

However, now pole dancing has been recognised by an international sporting body, following an 11-year battle by a British competitor to make the event an Olympic sport.

For the first time, the Global Association of International Sports Federation (GAISF) has granted seven events “Observer status”, meaning they are now provisionally recognised as sports.

The historic milestone means that the International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF), founded by Katie Coates, 41, from Hertfordshire, is now able to apply for membership of the International Olympic Committee.

If accepted, it is hoped that membership will pave the way to poledancing becoming an event at the Olympics, which would see it join recently incorporated fixtures such as baseball, karate and surfing.

At a national level, the British federation for pole dancing is now eligible to apply for national sports recognition through the Department for Digital, Culture and Sport.

Katie Coates, a pole dancing instructor who founded the International Pole Sports Federation

It is also permitted to apply for membership of UK Sport and the British Olympic Committee, which could allocate it national and UK Lottery funding in the future.

The announcement follows more than a decade of campaigning by Ms Coates, a pole dancing instructor, who set up the federation in 2009 after her petition for sports status garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

Since the federation was established, pole fitness - a combination of acrobatics and gymnastics - has surged in popularity, with gyms and leisure centres holding classes across the country.

The IPSF, alongside armwrestling, dodgeball and a number of other events, now has two years to meet GAISF’s requirements to become a fully-recognised sport.

They include becoming compliant with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and increasing their membership across the world.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph last night, Ms Coates said poledancing had achieved something previously thought “impossible”, adding that she was confident the event would become a regular fixture in the Olympic Games.

Pole dancing | A brief history

"In the early 2000s people started doing it as fitness and taking away the sex stigma, so no high heels and making it accessible for average people,” she added.

"Pole dancing is not like everyone thinks it is, you need to actually watch it to understand.

"Competitions started but they were very amateur, with friends of friends doing the judging. My goal initially was to make it more professional.

"I feel like we have achieved the impossible, everyone told us that we would not be able to get pole dancing recognised as a sport."

Having grown rapidly since it was founded in 2009, the IPSF is now made up of 25 national federations, including Spain, Japan and Mexico, and is due to welcome new members from the US and China next year.

In 2012, it hosted the first World Pole Sports Championship, which launched to coincide the with London 2012 Olympic Games.

ISPF

Moving forwards, the federation believes it will gain full sporting recognition, with Ms Coates revealing that athletes had already been tested by WADA.

"For the last three years we have been doing anti-doping tests, but this year was the first that WADA has tested our athletes,” she continued. “None of them have failed.

"To officially become a sport you need federations in 40 countries across four continents, and they need to be recognised by the highest sporting body in their countries.”

Commenting on the announcement, Patrick Baumann, president of GAISF, said: “This is an exciting time for them and for us and we will do everything within our remit to help them realise their full potential as International Federations within the global sport’s family and, one day, maybe become part of the Olympic program.

“The new sports debuting at Tokyo 2020 and at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympics are evidence that the pathway is there.”

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