Friday, August 22, 2008

Are we there yet?

My, how time flies.

It has been eleven years since Nick Alexakos, President of the International Practical shooting Confederation (IPSC), petitioned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to accept IPSC as a "Demonstration Sport" in the 2004 Olympics.

The IOC replied, essentially: "Not only 'No', but "Hell No!" Their determination may have been fueled ... it may have been decided ... by this statement from a non-IOC source:

ISSF (International Shooting Sports Federation) Secretary General Horst G. Schreiber:
They have approached us once, but we said we are not cooperating with them. We want nothing to do with them. The black sheriffs [security guards], the bodyguards—they're all members of this practical shooting. We want none of them in our group....It is not a sport. I think it's a camouflage for those who are supposed to deliver their high-power .45 pistols to the government, and they [seek to] find some sort of a legal possibility to keep possession of their revolvers or pistols.
So, an international shooting organization pierced the proposed demonstration with a bodkin of pure hatred for pistols, and for a sport which is designed to poke holes in cardboard ... with the added caveat that the request may be nothing more honorable than a crass commercial venture.

Thank you, Herr Schreiber. "What did YOU do in the war, Daddy?"

On the other hand, I find it somewhat charming to learn that the people ["black sheriffs"] who protect the bigwigs [ the Schreibers of this world] enjoy and appreciate Practical Pistol competition. Maybe we need to find a new class of Elitists.

This defeat for IPSC was a source of great amusement to the Violence Policy Center (VPC), which (in their "Gold Metal Gunslingers" series) gleefully recounted the story.

And some IPSC members, including myself, castigated Mr. Alexakos for his poor timing. The consensus among this disappointed group was that this effort, its rude rebuff, and the resulting bad publicity set back the cause of International acceptance of extreme Competitive Shooting at least a decade.

In the light of this year's Olympic competition in the shooting sports, and the perceived greater appreciation for pneumatic, smallbore and shotgun competition, at least one Gun Writer wonders whether it isn't time to include Practical Shooting to The Olympics, if only in very small mouse-steps.
It may ... be time to start lobbying the USOC [Ed: United States Olympic Committee] for practical shooting.

It's not beach volleyball, but watching shooters run, slide, shoot, reload and shoot again is- at least in my opinion - a made for television event. Telegenic events get coverage- shooting events, especially the moving and shooting events, can draw crowds and encourage participation- and media coverage.

There are the obvious concerns, but it would seem that lower-power equipment combined with electronic scoring technology (and a few lasers, sirens and some pyrotechnics maybe to familiarize shooters with distractions) could add up to rivetingly entertaining competitions.

But that may be the television producer in me looking for more shooting on television.

-- Jim Shepherd, "The Shooting Wire" August 18, 2008

(Shepherd is speaking in the context of the Scholastic Clay Target Program, which encourages young people to compete in Shotgun shooting.)

In its eight-year history, the SCTP has brought nearly 30,000 youths into trap, skeet and sporting clays competitions. But the program's undisputed validation as an international training ground came this past week in Beijing.

... it is now obvious to everyone that the SCTP program and its tough series of qualifying competitions can identify world-class shooters early in their shooting careers. It's an argument that has quietly -but not always civilly - raged between shooting disciplines that cross-pollination doesn't work, but it's hard to argue with the results. The names Hancock and Cogdell make that point impossible to argue.

Medals, as they say in Olympic sports, are what matters. SCTP shooters have produced two medals in the best Olympic showing the United States has made in more than four decades.

SCTP shooters have produced.

Shepherd's theme is that the SCTP program, introducing young people to the shooting sports and providing coaching and other support and encouragement, can produce World-Class Competitors ... and (most impressive to the USOC), bring Olympic medals back to America.

I don't know. I would like to think that Shepherd is right; the Olympics (especially the Summer Olympics, with its emphasis on outdoor sport) has a long history -- a couple thousand years -- of testing military prowess among the participating athletes. Recent world cultural evolution has chosen to ignore the genesis of the Olympics, but one need not be especially perceptive to recognize that most Olympic sports are based upon warfare.

Think: Javelin (spear-chucking), Discus (rock-chucking), running (Battle of Marathon?), low-jump (broken field running = military assault), pole-vaulting (take the castle), wrestling (hand-to-hand combat), fencing (swords), equestrian sports (cavalry), weight lifting (raw strength) ... we could go on and on, but you can supply your own interpretations.

The Olympics were based on military conflict. In fact, all sports may be said, in one way or another, to be based on conflict whether military or not.

For the IOC to deny another category of competition because it is based on conflict, because it demonstrates weapons prowess, or because it includes hardware (modern weapons) which were not technologically available 2000 years ago seems disingenuous.

In the final analysis, the attempt by Mr. Alexakos 11 years ago to introduce what may be interpreted as Combat Pistol (this was the original name for IPSC competition) as a legitimate Olympic sport in any context, seems to me to have been doomed by purely political imperatives. This, I'm sure, comes as no surprise to anyone.

And whether Mr. Alexakos should be castigated for his poor timing is now of only historic interest.

You may not agree with Mr. Shepherd, but perhaps today is the time to begin campaigning for a "Practical Shooting" event, either as a "demonstration" or as an entirely accepted Olympic "event".

Think ... Archery, 21st Century Style.

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