THE International Olympic Committee (IOC) are to meet this month to decide which sport will be added to the existing roster of 21 different disciplines being competed across in 32nd Olympiad, Tokyo 2020. There were over 30 world federations under consideration on the longlist, including the newly fully-recognised WFDF (World Flying Disc Federation).
This is the second selection process for a new sport to be added after the removal and reinstatement of wrestling two years ago. The IOC’s decision to take one of the oldest sports in the modern Olympics off of the programme was met with harsh criticism in May 2013 and was selected for reintroduction four months later, though will not feature in Rio.
After these recommendations were made at the IOC to shift the focus of the Olympics from sports-based to “events-based”. The effect of these changes allow another sport to be introduced, better yet one that reflects the interests of the host nation. The hope is that while the best athletes in the world can still prove themselves on the global stage, there will be even more to draw a global audience and fill stadia with home fans.
The eight that have made the shortlist this time are: baseball, bowling, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, surfing, and wushu; a martial art form popular across Asia. Japan’s national sport is baseball and is the front runner by some way. It’s closest competitors are karate and squash, both with a big worldwide appeal.
Though countries will be picking a sport with their medal prospects in mind (Team GB would stand a strong chance at gold in the squash given their commonwealth record), the purpose of this extra discipline is to make the biggest sporting event on earth even more exciting.
Surfing has made it this far thanks to Japan’s fantastic coastlines and the inherent drama of being wiped out by a huge wave. Sport climbing has many similar merits to surfing except on land, but their suggestion to the IOC does not define whether the routes would be up climbing walls or not, though it would be a waste not to use the country’s mountains and cliffs.
While it’s not particularly well-known in the west, wushu is one of the most popular forms of martial art across China, Korea and Japan, however their proposal for inclusion only includes taolu (practice of the forms, essentially like performing a floor routine in Gymnastics) and not sparring, which is where karate might be more popular as a spectator sport.
The more left-field suggestion of roller sports could be a great addition as its world federation covers a massive remit of speed skating, roller hockey, skateboarding and roller derby, but due to the limited time and restrictions of the IOC on the number of events only the speed skating in facing inclusion. A shame considering the profile of the sport could be raised in the same way we’ve seen with other lesser-known sports such as handball.
The IOC are to make a choice by the end of the month, with the official announcement due at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony.