The Vatican has taken another significant step in its international sporting journey; a journey that may lead to eventual Olympic inclusion.
The city state was recently approved as the newest member of World Taekwondo at the organization’s General Assembly. World Taekwondo became the second international federation to recognize The Vatican after the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) recognized the papal state earlier this year.
Vatican City joining World Taekwondo shouldn’t come as a shock as the two entities share interests in humanitarianism and promoting peace. World Taekwondo has become a leading voice in the sporting response to the refugee crisis through its Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation (THF), while Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed his sympathy for refugees in speeches and prayers.
Multiple demonstrations of taekwondo have been held at Vatican City in the past. His Holiness was even awarded an honorary 10th dan black belt by World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue and the President of the Federazione Italiana Taekwondo (FITA) Angelo Cito.
Taekwondo courses were also recently offered at the Saint Pius X Institute for students of the seminary, as The Vatican and taekwondo community continue to forge a relationship.
Speaking on the city state’s inclusion into World Taekwondo, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca said, “By introducing Athletica Vaticana into the greater family of World Taekwondo, I hope we will be able to help others to connect the high ethical values of Taekwondo to a robust spiritual life, and strengthen the bridge between eastern and western cultural traditions.”
“Together we can contribute to the common good of society, by spreading moral and physical strength, self-discipline, overcoming one’s limits, respect for others and joy of life, which are characteristics of Taekwondo.”
In the past, Sanchez de Toca has spoken to The Guardian on his hopes of Olympic inclusion for Vatican City, stating, “the dream that we have often had is to see the Holy See flag among the delegations at the opening of the Olympic Games.”
His country’s elevation to membership within World Taekwondo sees that dream move closer to reality. One of the conditions expounded upon in the Olympic Charter for a national Olympic committee (NOC) to be recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is that a country must be affiliated with at least five sports contested at the Olympic Games.
Olympic inclusion is also contingent upon active participation in the sports the county is affiliated with, such as sending athletes to competitions and organizing competition and training programs for athletes.
There are of course administrative hurdles to be cleared as well, but those should be easily met once the criteria stated above are satisfied. The Vatican would then need to apply for IOC recognition, after which Olympic inclusion would be solely a matter of IOC approval.
Depending on the pace at which The Vatican continues to expand its sporting infrastructure, it is not outside the realm of possibility that a Vatican City delegation may be present at the Olympic Games in the near future.
The city state is currently a member of the UCI and World Taekwondo. It is known that The Vatican is attempting to gain recognition by World Athletics through their athletics team, Athletica Vaticana.
The Vatican is also active in the sports of cricket, through St. Peter’s Cricket Club, and football, through the Vatican City Football Association. Neither of those sporting bodies are affiliated with the International Cricket Council (ICC) or International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) however.
Change could be afoot in that regard with The Vatican seeking a more active role in international sports, but recognition for Vatican City sporting bodies remains elusive for the time being as the city state’s path to potential Olympic participation unwinds.