As expected, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and baseball/softball will all join the Olympic programme at Tokyo 2020 after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously to permit their inclusion.
The five sports were voted in as a single package during the IOC’s ongoing 129th session in Rio de Janeiro. An IOC statement said the decision represents ‘the most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic programme in modern history’.
Wednesday’s vote was the culmination of a two-year process that began with the approval of the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reform proposals in 2014. Last September, the organising committee for Tokyo 2020 proposed the five sports for inclusion, after Agenda 2020 called for host cities to be given the option of suggesting new sports and events for inclusion in their edition of the Games.
The addition of the sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes to the Games in four years’ time. Sports and athletes already part of the programme will not be affected.
“We want to take sport to the youth,” IOC president Thomas Bach (pictured) said in a statement. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them.
“Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfils all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
The IOC’s statement said Tokyo 2020 will rely heavily on existing and temporary venues to stage the competitions. Skateboarding and sport climbing events, for example, will be staged in temporary venues installed ‘in urban settings’.
Baseball and softball, whose recommendation was widely expected given the popularity of both sports in Japan, will include two events – a men’s event comprising six teams and 144 athletes, and a women’s event comprising six teams and 90 athletes.
It remains unclear, however, whether Major League Baseball (MLB) athletes will be allowed to compete, with negotiations over player participation still ongoing between the league and the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
Karate, another sport with historic ties to Japan, has been proposed for eight events: two in the Kata discipline, with 20 athletes across the men’s and women’s events, and six in the Kumite discipline, which would feature a total of 60 athletes, 30 in each gender.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo organisers’ proposal calls for skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing to all feature 40 athletes, 20 from each gender. Skateboarding will be split across four events, with men’s and women’s editions in the Street and Park disciplines. Sport climbing will have two events, featuring bouldering, lead and speed combined categories, while surfing will be contested on short boards and on natural waves.
Reacting to Wednesday’s vote, Sabatino Aracu, the president of the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS), which spearheaded skateboarding’s bid, said: “This is a very important achievement that makes us really proud.”
Marco Scolaris, president of the International Federation for Sport Climbing (IFSC), said: ”We are so happy that sport climbing will be participating in the Games of Tokyo. The Olympics have been our dream for quite some time, and now the hard work has finally paid off. We would like to thank the IOC for extending a truly unique opportunity to our sport."
Riccardo Fraccari, president of the WBSC, also commented: "Today's decision is an important milestone in the sport's history and a momentous day for baseball/softball's estimated 65 million athletes in over 140 countries, as well as millions more fans around the world.
“On behalf of the WBSC and all the athletes, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Tokyo 2020 leadership for putting their faith in our sport to begin with; to IOC president Thomas Bach, whose Olympic Agenda 2020 vision has made this opportunity a reality; and to all IOC members for recognising the valuable contribution the sport can make to the Olympic Movement.”