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Flag football will be an Olympic sport at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

BJ Leiderman does our theme music, but this theme might be the most recognizable one in all of sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN WILLIAMS' "OLYMPIC FANFARE AND THEME")

SIMON: "The Olympic Fanfare And Theme" stirs memories of the otherworldly speed of Usain Bolt, the grace and daring of Simone Biles and, of course, the grit of Gronk.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROB GRONKOWSKI: Count me in already. Hopefully there's no trials and they just accept me. But I'm in. I'm going for that if there is flag football in the Olympics in 2028. USA going all the way.

SIMON: That's Rob Gronkowski. The former NFL tight end told TMZ sports this week he's willing to play for Team USA. Flag football, a sport familiar in gym classes - it will be an Olympic sport at the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. No tackling, no whacking, no smacking into each other. Players just try to pull one of the flags attached to the ball carrier's belt. It's not the kind of sport that can attract 100,000 fans into the Rose Bowl - yet, but coach Rob Dixon believes it could be.

ROB DIXON: Well, number one, it's exciting, right? It's fast. It's high-flying. It's fast-paced. It does require an elite level of game knowledge and football IQ, but additionally, it requires an extremely high level of athleticism.

SIMON: Rob Dixon is the head coach of the girls varsity flag football team at Frederick High School in Frederick, Md. The Cadets are in the first season of a county pilot program funded in part by Under Armour and the NFL's Baltimore Ravens. The NFL's been a huge supporter of flag football, but this week's Olympic announcement stunned even Dixon's players, like junior Lara Adeoye, a middle linebacker.

LARA ADEOYE: Our coaches were just telling us that they were hoping that in a couple of years, that it'd be added to the Olympics. And now seeing that it didn't even take that long, it's just, like, a wow factor.

SIMON: But Coach Dixon has been watching flag football grow.

DIXON: It's at the youth level. It's at the high school level. NFL is sponsoring teams, such as the Ravens. Thank you very much. They've done a great job with us - rec leagues, high schools now, summer, you know, AAU, USA Flag. So it's blowing up, and it's worthy of the Olympic stage.

SIMON: Squash will also be an Olympic sport for the first time in the 2028 games. At least it's not pickleball. Cricket and lacrosse will return after more than a century. Think of the poor players who've been waiting for a hundred years. And sad news for those athletes mastering their head spins and polishing their baby swipes in preparation for the Paris Games next year - breakdancing did not make the cut for the 2028 Summer Olympics. But hold on to those boom boxes and hope for Brisbane 2032.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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