Following an 11-year effort, the GLOBAL ASSOCIATION Of INTERNATIONAL SPORTS FEDERATIONS (GAISF) finally recognized pole dancing–or “pole,” as adopters like to call it–as an official sport in 2017.  

In an announcement at the time, the organization stated that both pole dancing and poker were granted “observer status,” which means they’re provisionally regarded as sports. That means they are now eligible to apply for membership to the INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE.

The efforts to recognize pole dancing as a legitimate athletic actvity goes back to 2006, when INTERNATIONAL POLE SPORTS FEDERATION President KATIE COATES set up an online petition. After accruing legions of supporters, the petition caught the attention of GAISF and likely influenced the organizaton’s decision as well. 
"A skilled pole dancer is the epitome of athleticism, using strength, flexibility and coordination. My favorite part about pole dancing is that it can be anything the individual wants it to be. I teach and get students from all walks of life and the ages can range from 20 to 60. Every race is represented and men pole dance, too. It can be an athletic apparatus to challenge physical ability. It can be a shiny phallic symbol to grind your ass on. It can be a solid apparatus to interact with for a range of artistic possibilities. I actually love the controversy and excitement it provokes. It is one versatile piece of metal. This is very different from several years ago when it was just a naughty novelty to try.”
Indeed, pole dancing has evolved in the past decade, most notably when Nintendo announced it was toying with the idea of a pole-dancing game for its Wii console in 2008. That was based in part on the retail success of Carmen Electra’s at-home Electra-Pole Professional Pole Kit, which drew Xbox’s interest in turning pole dancing into a video game as well. The hobby has only become less associated with stripping since and is increasingly recognized by specialty gyms and personal trainers as a legitimate form of exercise. 
“While the history of this connection [to sex work] exists, there is a clear distinction between the type of pole dancing performed in strip clubs and the type performed in competitive pole dance competitions. The aim is not to titillate. It is to discover the physical possibilities a human can achieve with the apparatus.” 
Mayer adds that audiences at pole competitions are primarily woman and not, as one would assume, men looking to be aroused. 
After multiple efforts from pole enthusiasts to distance themselves from its sordid past–the social media campaign #Notastripper, for instance, lit up social media in 2016 and celebrities like Taraji P. Henson, Teyana Taylor and Kate Hudson have openly adopted the sport.
A decision over whether pole can become an Olympic sport may prove more controversial than it’s worth, especially since the Olympics are funded by a number of family friends sponsors like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and subject to the cultural values of its host cities, which, for the next four years, are in Asia. By most measures, the best best for pole dancing’s inclusion might a city that is very familiar with the sport: Los Angeles, which will host the 2028 Summer Games. Coates remains positive.
“It’s finally an opening for us to achieve our dream."