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  • On the Record: World Bowling CEO Kevin Dornberger


    (ATR) It's been more than 30 years since bowling made its first and only appearance at the Games in Seoul. Since then, bowling seems to have fallen off the Olympic radar.

    Kevin Dornberger, World Bowling CEO (Kevin Dornberger)
    World Bowling CEO Kevin Dornberger discusses the ongoing quest for Olympic glory as well as the new scoring system, the Pan Am Games and much more.

    Around the Rings - Ok, let's get right down to business. Is bowling a sport or a game?

    Kevin Dornberger: Yes. It’s a sport to the top of the participation pyramid, it’s a game to the 200 million people who are in it for the recreational/social aspects. I compare bowling to swimming – a lot of backyard and public pools, a small percentage of competitive swimmers.

    ATR: Bowling seems to have universal appeal. But your champions tend to be American. What are your emerging markets? Where are you putting your development efforts?

    KD: Historically strong markets, particularly at the competitive level, exist in Scandinavia (Sweden/Finland/Denmark), Germany, Colombia and Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, the Arabian Gulf, Japan and Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. Bowling centers are being built by the dozens in China and Russia. These markets are still primarily recreational.

    ATR: We keep seeing things about the "current frame scoring" that was used at the Asian Games in Indonesia last year. Could you tell us what this is and why it's important?

    KD: Our traditional scoring system was created in 1895. It is predicated on strikes being more valuable than spares; the practical effect is that the score for any given frame can only be calculated after one additional roll following spares, and two rolls after a strike. The result is that often the score for frames of a game are blank until further rolls are made – this is confusing to outside spectators and media, and even to participants. World Bowling decided several years ago to develop an alternate scoring system which allows for a final current score at the end of each frame. Under the alternate system a strike = 30 points, a spare is 10 points plus the number of pins knocked down with the first roll (9/ = 19), and anything less = the number of pins knocked down that frame (5/3 = 8). World Bowling used this system in the 2019 World Junior Championships (U18) in Paris, and it will be used in the 2020 World Youth Championships (U21).

    ATR: Fans were quite disappointed when bowling wasn't chosen as one of Tokyo 2020's new sports. How has that affected your Olympic dreams? Or has it?

    KD: World Bowling remains committed to the inclusion of bowling in the Olympic Games. We believe that it’s inclusivity, gender equity, requirement for accuracy and power at the competitive levels and immense global recreational popularity makes it the perfect complement to existing Olympic sports.

    ATR: Are the Olympics still an objective for you?

    KD:  Absolutely.

    ATR: We noticed the following on your website: On August 2, 2018 Puebla, Mexico withdrew their bid for hosting 2019 WJC to support Paris in hosting the championships, to pave the way for our Olympic Quest for 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Could you tell us what this is all about?

    KD: Paris has chosen its new sports, but Olympic Quest sounds very intriguing. We had received two qualifying bids for the 2019 World Junior Championships, one from Paris/St. Maximin, and one from Puebla. World Bowling determined that it would be beneficial to create an arena Finals for this event using the alternate scoring system, to showcase our sport in front of Paris 2024 decision makers in a venue that created spectator appeal and entertainment opportunities not available in a commercial bowling center. Unfortunately the additional Paris sports had been announced prior to the March 23 Finals. However, a number of French sports officials did attend the event, and World Bowling gained valuable experience in creating and managing a site-built arena event, globally broadcast.
    Nicholas Pate of the USA won Pan Am gold in the men's singles in Lima (Lima 2019)

    ATR: Bowling is on the program for both the Pan Ams and the World Games. How did things go overall in Lima? We were a bit surprised by the doping violation - as far as we know, doping hasn't been an issue for you.

    KD: Bowling is an easy sport to administer within a Games structure, at its base level all you need is an acceptable existing bowling center. We leave no unusable facility issues, rather we use an existing facility, or in some cases, a new bowling facility is built to accommodate our Games participation – this occurred in Lima, and now the facility is available for Lima residents to use. The doping violation resulted from a failure to timely file a TUE on behalf of the athlete. Doping has not been an issue for us, however we will do more Anti-Doping education in the future.

    ATR: Bowling is one of just five sports that have been on the program for every single World Games since 1981. When are the qualifiers for Birmingham? Do you have any changes in age groups or anything along those lines?

    KD: Each of our five continental zones implements their own qualifying process. Generally speaking, the zones will rely on their most current Zone Championships to qualify athletes into the 2021 Games. There will be a change in the matchplay portion of the doubles event; rather than each doubles partner bowling two separate games and adding the totals, the matches will be best two of three Baker games, in which each athlete alternatively bowls 5 of the 10 frames.

    ATR: Getting back to the Olympics for a moment and the question of accessibility and ease of competition -- bowling requires quite a significant physical venue. How do you respond to that? Is there such a thing as a temporary bowling alley?

    KD: Bowling does not require an existing bowling center. World Bowling used the Paris Judo Hall for all Finals of the 2019 WJC, the competition took 4.5 hours. The 2 lanes (could have been 4-6) were installed in the 24 hours before the competition, and all traces of our footprint were removed within 6 hours after conclusion. Bowling has installed temporary venues in baseball and American football stadiums, indoor arenas and various other facilities. The Olympic proposal to Paris 2024 involved all competition being conducted on a temporary venue constructed in the Jardin des Tuileries, near the Louvre.

    ATR: There was an incident during the World Junior Championships where the wrong flag for Chinese Taipei was put up in the bowling center. The website noted that it has happened before and that it "could create a diplomatic disaster if not handled properly." Again, you don't think of bowling as being a sport that could cause international consternation. Most people don't realize that Chinese Taipei -- or Taiwan -- has a different flag and anthem. Why is this such a big deal? How are you guarding against another repeat?

    KD: Actually the incident was overblown. The host bowling center had done its own research prior to our arrival and had created and placed flags of all the participating nations around the facility as a gesture of goodwill. They did not know of the Chinese Taipei flag issue involving China, so they used the wrong flag. It was noted by the China delegate and replaced with the appropriate flag two days prior to the start of competition. World Bowling is aware of the Chinese Taipei flag and anthem protocol, and we do our best to comply.

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