Polo was part of the Olympic Games only five times (1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936). In 1996, the IOC voted to make polo a “recognized sport” again, which made it eligible for inclusion. Since then the effort to have polo reintroduced back into the Summer Olympics has been occurring on several fronts. For the United States, the first goal was to have the USPA recognized by the US Olympic Committee (USOC) as the official representative of polo in the US. While it might seem that this should have been a slam dunk, it took the International Committee of the USPA over 8 years to accomplish this goal.
At the international level, FIP are working to have polo included in the Pan American Games to be next held in Lima, Peru in August, 2019. The PanAm games are the qualifying rounds for several sports for the 2020 Olympic Games the following summer. The Pan Am games included only the countries in North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean region. FIP need to have 20 Pan Am countries willing to participate, but getting that many countries on the same page has been difficult in the extreme. Polo was last played in the PanAm games in Argentina in 1951 in which Brazil won.
Equestrian sports tend not to be favored by the Olympic movement not only because they are perceived as elitist sports, but also because critics say that it is the horse that is the athlete, not necessarily the rider. To overcome this issue, FIP World Championships require that the host country provide all of the horses for all the participating teams divided to the extent possible into equally talented strings.
Then there is the issue of the handicap level. The FIP World Championships are played at the 14 goal level, a handicap the provides a fairly good quality of polo and maximizes the number of countries capable of competing.
There is resistance to having polo played at anything less than Open level by Argentina which FIP are in the process of trying to work through.
FIP did submit a bid to have polo included in the 2020 Olympics in Japan, but the fact that there is no Japanese polo precluded that possibility. FIP are looking forward to the possibility that Los Angeles will be awarded the 2024 Olympic games and the USPA stands ready to support polo’s inclusion in this event.