November 20, 2009

Buzkashi Made Olympic Sport

LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND -- President Obama has something to show for going to Copenhagen after all.  Details of a meeting between the current US President and the International Olympic Committee reveal a backroom deal made between the two parties that opened the door to have the Afghan sport of Buzkashi made an Olympic sport.

Obama's original purpose in flying to Copenhagen, Denmark, was to have Chicago chosen as the 2016 Olympic location, a distinction which instead went to Rio de Janeiro. While he was unsuccessful in that mission he did not go away empty-handed. Knowing that Afghan elders have for years tried to make their national pastime of Buzkashi an Olympic sport, he negotiated a deal where it is to be included in the 2012 summer Olympics in London. Obama's success in achieving this is expected to lend great strength and prestige to the fledging Afghan government and their American allies.

Little is known in the west about the fascinating sport of Buzkashi. It is played by two teams of horseman. Each team tries to grab a decapitated animal carcass and throw it across a goal line, while the other team tries to prevent it. The sport is enjoyed in several middle eastern and far eastern countries, although there are regional variations in the rules.

One of the first tasks of the IOC is to decide which animal carcass is to be used (goat and calf are both popular) and whether the other limbs will be kept intact during play or also removed. The animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is expected to protest any decision.  Some forms of the sport are more physical and allow players to strike or whip one another during play, another area the Committee must examine.  PETA is not expected to protest this decision.

Another concern of the committee is how many countries will be able to field a team.  So far only Afghanistan and Jamaica have signed on, with several other countries expressing interest.

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