Chris Ryan
You won't see "bike polo" at this summer's Olympics--not even as one of those obscure exhibition sports. And, you may not see it much longer here in Portland parks, one of the few places in the world where the sport is played.

Starting two years ago, a group of local bike messengers picked up the obscure game--a rough hybrid between regular polo and motocross. Played three on three, the riders use customized, single-gear mountain bikes and ski poles transformed into croquet-like mallets. It is a fast moving and, at times, a rough game.

"But I don't think that anyone has even gone to the hospital," assured regular player BillDozer. He then promptly showed off a scar where he punctured his Achilles' tendon.

The problem is that the bike polo games aren't welcome everywhere and have been bounced by the city's Park & Rec. Bureau from Buckman School and at Col. Sumner Park. The question of where to allow bike polo--if to even allow it at all--adds to the simmering debate over who can use the city's parks as well as how, when, and where. In the past couple years, that debate has become increasingly heated, with pending discussions over where to place skateparks and fights over off-leash hours for dogs.

Late this spring, organizers spoke with Park & Rec officials. It seemed like all sides had hammered out an informal agreement in which polo players could use a crumbling tennis court at Alberta Park. But two weeks ago, park rangers chased the players away from there, as well. According to BillDozer, the rangers informed the players: "We've been told by our boss that you're not allowed to play here."

But the city says they are not singling out bike polo games. "I'm sure they feel like they're getting jacked around," admits Shawn Rogers with Park & Rec. "But for us, it's a matter of liability."

Rogers assures that the city is willing to accommodate the players. "The challenge is that they consume alcohol and ride. We find it difficult not to impose an insurance restriction."

So far, the players haven't been able to find suitable insurance coverage. But, they retort, what's the difference between bike polo and pick-up basketball games or ultimate Frisbee players?

Rogers counters right back: "We can accept basketball; it's a known entity. Bike polo isn't."