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Bowling Olympics

Professional bowler Pete Weber bowls in a celebrity invitational tournament. (Skip Bolen/Getty Images for PBA)

Few sports can boast as long and rich a history as bowling. Ancient Egyptians are believed to have practiced an early form of the game, and it is thought to have been popular in England during the reign of Henry VIII. In modern times, 10-pin bowling has long been one of the world’s most popular sports, with an estimated 100 million participants worldwide. In 1979 the IOC officially recognized the Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs as the governing body of bowling, and the organization has been lobbying for bowling to become part of the Olympics ever since.

In 1988 bowling came painfully close to fulfilling its Olympic dream when it was included as a demonstration sport at the Seoul Summer Games. Only 20 nations competed, however, and the competition received little media coverage because of its demonstration status. South Korea, Singapore and Finland won the gold, silver and bronze, respectively, in the men’s bowling event that year, while the Philippines, Japan and Finland finished 1-2-3 for the women. Bowling hasn’t returned to the Olympics since.