The next summer Olympics, coming to Tokyo in 2020, will invite athletes to compete for medals in six sports just added to the lineup: surfing, skateboarding, karate, climbing, men’s baseball, and women’s softball. (The latter two were Olympic sports until Beijing 2008.)
The decisions, announced today (Aug. 3) in Rio by the International Olympic Committee, were based on factors including “the impact on gender equality, the youth appeal of the sports and the legacy value of adding them to the Tokyo Games,” the IOC said.
Several of the selections were intended to reflect the “urbanization” of sports, the committee said. It expects to hold many of the new events at venues installed in urban settings, in an effort to bring the games closer to younger generations.
“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,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.
The sports chosen were proposed by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, and are disciplines with established or growing popularity in Japan. “The inclusion of the package of new sports will afford young athletes the chance of a lifetime to realize their dreams of competing in the Olympic Games,” said Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 committee.
Not everyone is thrilled with the selections. This is especially true of surfers and skaters, many of whom consider themselves a little “too cool” for competition in such a structured setting. Nearly 7,000 people have signed a petition that asks for skateboarding not to be added to the Olympics program. It reads, in part:
Skateboarding is not a “sport” and we do not want skateboarding exploited and transformed to fit into the Olympic program. We feel that Olympic involvement will change the face of skateboarding and its individuality and freedoms forever. We feel it would not in any way support skateboarders or skateparks. We do not wish to be part of it and will not support the Olympics if skateboarding is added as an Olympic sport.
It’s a sentiment echoed today by professional surfer Mark Healey:
But not everyone is disappointed.
Opinions from the karate world seemed somewhat more aligned. The World Karate Federation welcomed the moment as “historical,” and many competitors in the sport have celebrated the news:
As for climbing, its fans had a campaign to promote the inclusion of the sport in Tokyo 2020—and several climbing organization have been quick to celebrate the victory.
In total, the newly chosen disciplines are expected to add 18 events to the Olympics program, and 474 athletes to the competition. The number of athletes will be divided evenly among men and women, except for baseball and softball. While an equal number of men’s and women’s teams will be invited to compete, baseball teams have 24 men apiece, while each softball team will have 15 women.