Cheerleading Could Become An Olympic Sport In 2024

Just don’t call them “spirit squads”

Team USA at the 2016 World Cheerleading Championship. (Image via International Cheer Union)

On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee granted provisional recognition to competitive cheerleading, which allows the International Cheer Union to receive IOC funding and developmental support. The announcement also puts cheerleading in the running for inclusion at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

“It is a sport with growing popularity, a strong youth focus in schools and universities, and we noted that,” IOC sports director Kit McConnell told the Associated Press.

The ICU, which encompasses over 4.5 million athletes and national federations from 110 countries, oversees several types of competitive cheer, including club, school, and all-star divisions. All-star cheer, which consists of private teams devoted to competition rather than sideline spirit, has grown rapidly in American over the last two decades and is now a multibillion dollar industry.

These are the high-flying stage routines you’ve seen on YouTube—controlled rhythmic chaos, interspersed with backflips, back handsprings, complicated chants—with girls being launched into the rafters.

Also on Tuesday, the IOC also awarded provisional membership to Muaythai kickboxing. After three years, the IOC can vote whether to add either sport to the official Olympic program.