January 4, 2017 / 12:07 PM / in 8 months

Woodward says darts should be an Olympic sport

LONDON (Reuters) - Darts should be an Olympic sport and "ticks all the boxes" for inclusion in future Games, according to England's World Cup winning former rugby coach Clive Woodward.

The former British Olympic Association director of elite performance wrote in Wednesday's Daily Mail that darts was growing in popularity worldwide and it was time it "stepped up to the Olympic oche".

It could be a very long wait, however. There are currently 37 officially recognized Olympic sports and darts, a game that has long been played by drinkers in English pubs and bars, is not one of them.

Tokyo, host of the 2020 Games, will have surfing, sport climbing and karate among six new sports included in its Olympics.

Muaythai, a martial art, and cheerleading last month also received provisional recognition as Olympic sports.

"Darts should be an Olympic sport. No, seriously. The world of sport is evolving, the Olympics is evolving and I want to see darts in the Games. Easier said than done, but it ticks all the boxes," Woodward said.

"Sport is about people striving to do their best, competing to win while also accepting loss. Darts has all that and much more."

Woodward, who coached the England rugby team from 1997 to 2004 and won the 2003 World Cup, said he had "lapped up" the world darts finals over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

World number one Michael van Gerwen of the Netherlands won his second PDC World Darts Championship title with a 7-3 victory over Scottish holder Gary Anderson at the Alexandra Palace.

"Darts is a sport of and for the people and that is what the modern-day Olympics is striving very hard to reflect," said Woodward.

"If you made darts an Olympic sport tomorrow, almost overnight millions of men and women from the age of 15 to 65 would suddenly nurture private hopes and ambitions that they could be Olympic champions. It's that accessible."

The Briton said he also loved the sporting entertainment and human drama that darts delivered.

"I've lost track of the number of people who say they first tuned in to darts on TV by mistake and were still there an hour later living every moment. It draws you in," he said.

"At least half the coverage involves close-ups of faces. You can see the mental process, the calculations, the sweat, the stress, the panic and the calming of the nerves."

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Clare Fallon

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