New Sport in 2020 Olympics


 Photo by Erik Estrada of Hangar 18 Rancho Cucamonga

Photo by Erik Estrada of Hangar 18 Rancho Cucamonga

By Erik Estrada

Rock Climbing, at its dawn, was practiced in the depths of the wilderness, but, in more recent years, has gained popularity amongst young crowds, which is why it's being brought to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC)  has approved three different styles of rock climbing including sport climbing, bouldering and speed climbing. The IOC approved climbing as an Olympic sport after the International Federation of Sport Climbing's (IFSC) second request to be added to the list of Olympic games in 2020, since their first request in 2013.

"The Olympics have been our dream for quite some time and, now, the hard work has finally paid off", said IFSC President Marco Solaris in an interview with Kevin Corrigan at Climbing.com.

The bundle of new sports added to the Olympic games include climbing, skateboarding, surfing, & karate and are scheduled to have baseball/softball to return, since the last time they appeared in the 2008 Beijing games.

The IOC states they are hoping to reach a younger audience by adding sports they feel jive better with millennials. “We want to take sport to the youth," says IOC President Thomas Bach, according to Corrigan.

Olympic climbing will be broken down into 3 sections:

The first, sport climbing, is ascending a climb with a fixed anchor, usually at the top of the climb. In sport climbing, climbers are harnessed in using ropes and ascend to higher altitudes than most other styles

The second, bouldering, is done with minimal gear, except climbing shoes and chalk, and usually does not ascend more than 25 ft. No harnesses or ropes are used in bouldering.

Lastly, speed climbing, ascending a climb as fast as possible is the goal. Speed climbing can be done without ropes. Traditionally outdoor climbing is done without ropes but in competitions, ropes are usually required as safety precautions.

Many professional outdoor climbers dislike the idea of the sport being generalized as 3 different styles of climbing, as they feel it mixes different characteristics that don’t have much to do with each other. There are very few athletes that focus on all three aspects, so professional climbers, such as sport climber Joe Kinder, do not agree with the IOC.

“It feels like some cigar smoking goomba made up the format behind a desk somewhere in a high-rise building… It's comical and unfortunate,” says Kinder in an article by Sasha Digiulian, who also agrees. 

Climbers like Joe Kinder and Sasha Digiulian argue that climbing as an Olympic sport will dilute what climbing has grown to be and it could start to bring great outdoor climbers who live by the rocks to be drawn to gyms, in hopes to compete for a gold medal rather than the sheer enjoyment of the sport.

Presidents of the IOC and IFSC feel the addition of climbing to the games is a great milestone for climbing culture and feel it will bring attention to a sport that has been in the shadows since it started.

It's no doubt that the addition of climbing to the Olympics is stirring both positive and negative emotions with professional climbers and corporations. However, it is certain that climbing is gaining popularity rapidly amongst young crowds all across the world and the sport is gaining international recognition.