Pole vaulting: Olympic event since 1896. Pole dancing: Olympic event starting in 2016? It's not out of the question. Last year, the Pole Fitness Association circulated petitions to get the dance form into the 2012 Summer Games. Alas, the International Olympic Committee must have deemed pole dancing more Las Vegas than London because it did not make the cut. But the campaign goes on.
Rafaella Montanaro of Brazil performs during the women's division grand final competition of the International Pole Championship in Tokyo on Dec. 9, 2010.
Credit: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images
Pole dancing may still conjure images of strip clubs for many, but these days it's actually more about health clubs. The sensual dance is commonly called "pole fitness" or "vertical dance," and there are more than 500 pole dancing fitness studios across the United States.
Mai Sato of Japan performs during the women's division grand final competition of the International Pole Championship in Tokyo on Dec. 9, 2010.
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Many question whether cheerleading should even qualify as a sport. But don't dismiss the athleticism of elite cheerleaders. They are top-notch gymnasts - and even world-class track and field stars. A cheerleader for the Atlanta Falcons nearly qualified for the 2012 London Olympics - as a pole vaulter.
Cheerleaders perform during the quarter-final match between USA and Korea during the Women's FIBA World Championship 2010 in Karlovy Vary on Oct. 1, 2010.
But will cheerleading ever vault into the Olympics? Maybe not but it won't be lack for enthusiasm. The International Cheer Union submitted a request for recognition to the Olympic Committee in 2010, but so far the efforts have failed.
Members of the Taiwan team perform during the cheer dance competition at the the Cheerleading World Championships in Hong Kong on Nov. 26, 2011.
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Grace, power and precision. No, we're not talking about Olympic gymnastics, but sheep shearing. At least that's the view of the Golden Shears, which hosts the world's largest sheep shearing and wool handling contest. According to the Associated Press, a New Zealand farm lobby group says sheep shearing has the potential to become an Olympic demonstration sport.
In this Sept. 29, 2011, file photo, a competitor shears a sheep during the 50th New Zealand International Merino Shearing championships.
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The "time has come to elevate shearing's sporting status to the ultimate world stage," the New Zealand Federated Farmers said in a statement earlier this year, adding that the world's top shearers are "athletes who take it to another level."
William Craig of Scotland competes in the World Shearing final at the Golden Shears 2012 World Shearing Championships on March 3, 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand.
Credit: Hagen Hopkins
Yoga: Spiritual discipline... focused meditation... Olympic competition? Yes indeed, according to USA Yoga founder Rajashree Choudhury, who told the Associated Press she wants to see yoga asana, or posture, competition become an Olympic sport. Choudhury says the focus is not on the mystical "om" but the physical pose. "I'm not trying to measure anybody's 'eight states,'" she said, referring the meditative and spiritual aspect of yoga practice. "The posture can be competitive."
In this Jan. 27, 2012 photo, travelers Maria Poole, right, and Lindsey Shepard, practice yoga at San Francisco International Airport's new Yoga Room, in San Francisco.
Yoga pose competitions take place in India, where yoga originated, and elsewhere around the world. Choudhury said the competitions can be a way to interest people in yoga who might be put off by the spiritual aspect, by showing them the athletic aspect.
In this file photo, yoga teacher Kyoko Katsura demonstrates standing bow puilling, one of the poses that could be seen during the National Yoga Asana Championships in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012.
Credit: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
In a 2007 Forbes survey, squash was rated the healthiest sport on the planet, based on criteria ranging from cardiorespiratory endurance to muscular strength. Squash has made quite a racket to get into the Games - but to no avail. The fast-paced, goggle-wearing sport just missed out on the 2012 London Games and had hoped to qualify for the 2016 Games but ultimately lost out to golf and rugby sevens.
This Nov. 26, 2006, file photo shows Nicol David of Malaysia (left) lunging for the ball during the women's final at the World Squash Championship at the Ulster Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
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Still, the crusade to get squash into the Olympics continues. As if being the healthiest sport wasn't enough, squash advocates have outlined other reasons. According to squash2016.info, the sport has some compelling arguments: it's played worldwide (175 countries), it's low-cost (a portable game requiring minimal space) and "it's the only sport which can boast world champions - men and women - from all five IOC-recognized continents."
Amr Shabana (left) of Egypt plays against Mohamed El Shorbagy during the World Squash Championship at the National Squash Centre on October 17, 2008 in Manchester, England.
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What do Kristi Yamaguchi and Shawn Johnson have in common? Yes, they are both Olympic gold medalists. But they are known by millions more in the U.S. for something else: Both are "Dancing with the Stars" champions. (Olympian Evan Lysacek also competed on the show and finished second). With that kind of Olympic-dancing hybrid success, it stands to reason that competitive ballroom dancing should be a prime contender to be in the Games, right? Not yet. But it's not for a lack of trying.
Dancer Mark Ballas and Yamaguchi perform at the Dizzy Feet Foundation's Inaugural Celebration of Dance at The Kodak Theater on Nov. 29, 2009 in Hollywood, Calif.
Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
After years of lobbying, the International DanceSport Federation (IDSF) was finally recognized by the IOC as the sport's official representative body in 1997. However, subsequent efforts to include ballroom dancing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics failed. Still, ballroom dancing is as physically demanding as many Olympic sports.
In this file photo, dancers compete in the Closed Smooth Category during the 1st day of the Arthur Murray International 2012 World Dance-O-Rama, in New York, March 21, 2012.