If the IOC has a role as guardian of the changing ambitions of sporting youth, it should take note of what were allegedly the three most popular events among Under-30s of the
inaugural European Games at Baku last summer: 3-man basketball, beach football and
trampoline. None on the Olympic Programme!
The tide of youth activity must not be ignored, and the IOC recognised this when
opening the way during the Agenda 2020 Extraordinary Session in December 2014, for
discretionary addition of sports at Tokyo’s Summer Games of 2020. A preliminary
selection had been narrowed to five by a Tokyo committee, the final recommendation from the Executive Board’s meeting in June to put to the session prior to Rio’s Games.
The five sports are, or were, Baseball/Softball, Indoor Climbing, Karate,
Skateboarding and Surfing. However, uncertainty about Skateboarding, lacking a
recognised International Federation registering affiliated national federations, has excluded for the time being the possibility for this truly global activity that infests the sidewalks of almost every city or village across five continents.
The question remains whether the Executive Board will now accept all four
contenders, which is Tokyo’s wish – their organising committee willing to meet the cost,
never mind economy cuts elsewhere. Ireland’s EB member Patrick Hickey reflects:
“Following the aspirations widely expressed at Agenda 2020, we have a responsibility to
adapt any Games to the hosting city’s profile”.
It can be guessed that this opinion will be uniform across the EB, and therefore that
Baseball/Softball will receive automatic approval, baseball being a national sport. But the
The EB is known not to be unanimous for blanket acceptance: if four new sports are
admitted, will all survive for future Games, or will there be a rash of innovative Olympic
champions never to be seen again?
Consider Karate. Here would be a fourth combat sport, alongside Boxing, Judo and
Taekwondo: moreover, one which has more than one IF, though the one recognised by the IOC being World Karate Federation, its leaders criticised by some for not seeking a unified global body.
WKF was formed in 1990, boasting 10 million participants in 130 countries, whereas
the International Shotokan Karate Federation (founded 1977), has 60 national federations across five continents. Karate emerged out of Japanese judo in the fifties; and evolved through a European Union, the Federation of All-Japan Karate Organisation, a World Union of Karate Organisation, and ultimately the WKF.
A further complexity of karate is that it has four distinct styles, thereby necessitating
escalation of separate gold medals. Does the IOC want this? Because President Thomas Bach, strongly backed by Australian John Coates, initiated the innovation, augmented by a change in the Charter, I expect the EB will concede to the principle.
Both Indoor Climbing and Surfing would seem safe bets for inclusion: climbing
facilities are cheaply accessible in almost any village hall, whilst surfing has been
transformed by technology that makes uniform wave height and speed available in the
middle of the Sahara: dramatic, televisual, athletic, challenging.
In the wake of Tokyo ’20, there is likely to be intense competition for places on the
programme, especially under the policy of the Olympics becoming event-based rather than sport-based: larger sports sacrificing some events to accommodate additional athletes within the 10,500 limit. This challenge will even arise in 2017 post-Rio.
By David Miller
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.