Tokyo Olympics: Sport climbing takes on new impetus with Olympic debut

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The inclusion of rock climbing in the Olympics for the first time has also given the sport a boost. “We definitely saw some growth and just a spike in interest in the sport after the Olympics,” said Charlotte Bosley, Marketing Director for El Cap Climbing Gym. “It really speaks to the idea of ​​people getting exposed to a sport and really trying to figure out how they can learn more of it.”

Sport climbing takes on new impetus with Olympic debut Sport climbing was one of four new sports added to the Olympic program for the Tokyo Games this summer, along with skateboarding, surfing and karate.

The United States was one of two countries to have three climbers qualified for the final, with Nathaniel Coleman winning silver. “It was a little disappointing,” said Marc Norman, CEO of USA Climbing. “Before the Olympics I shared with a lot of gym owners, hey we’ll see that increase. Sports see it all the time. But I think with NBC’s less than ideal number outside the Games for a wide variety of reasons, we see that playing out in a lower number of people than escalating in the Games.

The only problem: rock climbing hasn’t had prime time exposure like some of the other sports. Climbing shows were generally broadcast during off-peak hours or as part of prime-time flagship packages. The preparation for the Olympics gave sport climbing a boost, especially with print media keen to explain new sports. The visuals in Tokyo were also excellent: athletes hanging from fingertips, jumping, sometimes hanging upside down on multi-colored holds on walls reaching over 15 meters.

Despite this, inclusion in the Olympics has given a boost to a sport that has skyrocketed in popularity as indoor climbing halls popped up across the country. Indoor climbing has grown into a $ 500 million industry with nearly 600 gyms spread across the United States, according to the 2021 IBIS Indoor Climbing Walls market study. The net number of climbing gyms in the United States increased 5.21% in 2019, but industry revenues fell by about 25.8% in 2020 as people were forced to return to indoors due to COVID-19.

USA Climbing, which oversees the U.S. Olympic team, has seen its membership drop by almost half to around 7,500 in 2020, but has seen an increase of almost 50% so far this year. Potential climbers no longer had to stock up on gear and travel to remote areas to try the sport. All that has been needed in recent years is what is often a short drive to a climbing gym, a quick step and a click in a harness, and off you go.

“It’s too early to see if we’ll return to 2019 levels, but we’re optimistic and so far it’s looking good,” Norman said. “So the question is, to what extent is this motivated by the Olympics? Granted, it didn’t hurt. Potential climbers no longer had to stock up on gear and travel to remote areas to try the sport. All that has been needed in recent years is what is often a short drive to a climbing gym, a quick step and a click in a harness, and off you go.

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