Way back in 1978, the United States Olympic Committee organized the first National Sports Festival to give U.S. athletes some additional competition opportunities during the summer months.
There weren’t so many events back then and USOC President Robert Kane pushed for a cost-effective event that would also give American athletes a taste of a multi-sport event short of the Olympic Games or Pan American Games.
The event was a hit, with 1,900 athletes competing in 29 sports, with 80,000 attendees and $125,000 in ticket sales. The winner of the men’s discus was the legendary Al Oerter, in the midst of comeback to try for the 1980 U.S. team.
The event really took off in Indianapolis in 1982, was renamed the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1986 and continued through 1995 – the 14th edition – when it was no longer needed. By that time, a year prior to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, there were lots of events for American athletes to compete in in every Olympic sport.
And the calendar has gotten a lot more crowded since then.
In the middle of this issue is our new competition calendar, a chronological listing of 768 events from October 2018 through the end of next year. Its accuracy will ebb as we move through the winter-sport season, but it’s a good planning tool for the rest of the year and for the major events of 2019.
Kane passed away at 81 in 1992, but saw his vision of increased opportunities for athletes realized, in part thanks to his Festival concept. Are there now too many events?
USA Swimming picked three different 2019 teams at this year’s Nationals: for the World Championships, for the World University Games and the Pan American Games. Add that to World Cup series in almost every sport – and the sports that don’t have a series are planning one – and it’s worth asking if we have too much sport. And we didn’t list cadet or youth events and only a few of the junior-level championships. Is there a limit? We don’t seem to have reached it yet.