Never in the history of the modern Olympics have so many new sports made their debut as in Tokyo 2020. Skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate now have their first Olympic champions, while softball and baseball have returned to the Games since their last appearance in 2008.
Five years ago, the decision to include these sports was taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to appeal to the youth. For the host country, Japan, these sports were also very relevant to them. Baseball is Japan’s biggest sport, karate is a traditional favorite, and skateboarding is popular among young people.
Some of the new additions will return in Paris 2024. While most of them have been successful with the public and the athletes participating in them, others still have issues that need to be addressed before they return.
Skateboarding stood out
Having researched skateboarding and its bumpy road to the Olympics for many years, I’m certainly a little biased, but I thought it got the most attention of the five new sports for several reasons. First, the age of the participants.
There is no doubt that many Olympic viewers were fascinated to see the youngest Olympic podium of all time with an average age of 14 years. For a group of teenagers there was incredible sportsmanship and maturity. Sky Brown, a 13-year-old Team GB sensation, was the first to run towards her competitor, Sakura Yosozumi, after winning the skateboard competition. This unfolded throughout the competition, with the contestants cheering each other on and congratulating the winners of the other teams.
Skateboarding also made its debut in style. Multicolored uniforms inspired by the 90s of American skaters to Brazilian Rayssa Leal beige cargo pants supported by a black skater belt with the all-white uniform of Japanese Aori Nishimura and platinum blonde hair, the Olympic skate outfits were unanimously praised.
Bryce Wettstein, a 16-year-old Californian skater, even brought his ukulele to take the lead in the finals at Women’s Skateboard Park. The Olympics are known to be the high pressure environment, and it was very refreshing to see at least part of the Games skateboarding feeling like a gathering of teenagers having fun and cheering each other on. others.
Difficult questions in sport climbing
While the novelty of skateboarding received praise from all, sport climbing left some fans divided over whether Olympic climbing made sense.
Sport climbing is a unique sport in the Olympic program (there is nothing quite like it) and was a hit in Tokyo for those who had never seen it before.
The controversy arose when the IOC decided to award only one set of medals for sport climbing instead of three. As a result, the sport governing body proposed the âcombinedâ format of three key climbing types: bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing. The latter does well on television, but in fact it has always been considered a marginal discipline among grassroots climbers and the most different from the other two.
Climbers normally specialize in a single discipline and given the different skill sets needed for each, the combined Olympic format can be compared to having swimmers do a diving competition as well, or asking Novak Djokovic to compete in tennis. table for the first set. It seems that the fears of the climbing community were true, as Adam Ondra, who many consider the best climber in the world, had to spend the last year training specifically for the speed part and still hasn’t reached the Olympic finals.
It may seem unfair to consider established Olympic sports like swimming or cycling where the same athletes can compete for many medals in separate disciplines or relays. There have been a lot of policies behind the IOC’s relationship with action sports, but it seems they should have listened to the sports community.
What Paris 2024 has in store for you
With the 2020 Olympics delayed for a year by the pandemic, the next Summer Games are only three years away. The Paris 2024 preview video that aired at the Tokyo Closing Ceremony had a very urban and artistic vibe, and the âmodernizationâ of the Games can be expected to continue. Part of this modernization comes with the addition of another new sport in 2024: breakdancing.
It might have been unthinkable to see him at the Olympics ten years ago (and yes, it’s a sport), but it was true for skateboarding. Karate, baseball, and softball have worked very well for Japanese viewers and athletes, but will be abandoned because, presumably, they are not so relevant to France, where breakdance is an integral part of youth culture.
Surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing (with more medals thankfully) are here to stay and strengthen the IOC standard for youth-centered and more gender-balanced Games.
Research I was involved in a few years ago showed that action sports tended to keep women and minorities out of sport. With commercial action sports for men still miles ahead, it was heartening to see that Tokyo 2020 signaled a change from this exclusive – female athletes like skater Sky Brown and surfer Carissa Moore becoming icons in sports traditionally dominated by men.
In the years to come, expect to see more girls in skateparks, surf spots, and rock climbing halls. And I hope the governing bodies will give them the same support so that the best of them can become the next generation of Olympians.