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Surfing, skateboarding and baseball among the new sports added to the Olympics

They will be brought in for the 2020 Games after the International Olympic Committee announced the news today.

Surfing will be introduced in four years' time.
Surfing will be introduced in four years' time.
Image: Ben Margot

THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE has announced that five sports will be added to the docket at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

The IOC voted to include baseball-softball, surfing, skateboarding, karate, and sport climbing. The news comes on the heels of the 2014 vote from the IOC that ended a 28-sport cap at the Summer Games.

The sports will also add 18 more medals and nearly 500 new athletes to the 2020 Olympics.

While baseball and softball were both featured in the Olympics as recently as 2008, the other four events will be new.

Here is a guide to them:

Surfing

Surfing’s laid-back image is far from the ideal of the Olympic motto “faster, higher, stronger”, and the sport has a strong anti-establishment tradition to boot. Many surfers would baulk at even calling it a sport, preferring to couch it as a lifestyle or art form.

But surfing will take a step into the modern era in 2020, with Olympic competition set to boost exposure and, most likely, sponsorship and participation.

Plans to use an artificial wave machine have been ditched and the race is now on to become one of the 40 surfers, 20 men and 20 women, who will compete on coastline south of Tokyo to become the sport’s first Olympic medallists.

Skateboarding

Terms like “Ollie”, “roastbeef” and “frontside grab” will enter the Olympic lexicon when skateboarding rolls into the mainstream in 2020.

Skateboarding’s history is closely tied to surfing and it is embued with the same rebellious streak, partly because skaters are unwanted in many city areas and brushes with security guards are common.

Nearly 7,000 skaters signed a petition to keep skateboarding out the Olympics, highlighting opposition within the community. But despite misgivings among some, new stars will be born when skateboarding joins the Olympic circus in Tokyo in four years’ time.

At a temporary venue in Tokyo, 40 men and 40 women will compete in ‘street’, where they perform tricks on a number of obstacles, and ‘park’, where skaters compete on ramps.

 Climbing

Not everyone will be aware it is even a sport, but climbing is going up in the world thanks to its Olympic inclusion.

Sixty climbers will compete in three disciplines: lead, where competitors have to climb within a set timeframe; bouldering, or climbing without ropes; and speed, where competitors race against the clock.

The gold medallists will be the ones with the most points after all three events. It promises to be watchable and could expand a fanbase which already includes an estimated 35 million climbers worldwide in 2015, according to the International Federation of Sport Climbing.

Baseball-softball

The only traditional sport in Tokyo’s batch of five got the nod largely because of its massive following in Japan and guaranteed box-office draw.

The classic American pastime first gained full Olympic status at the Barcelona Games in 1992, a position it held for five editions until Beijing 2008.

Cuba won the first two Olympic gold medals, when players were required to be amateur, before the USA triumphed for the first time in 2000, when professionals were allowed.

However, Cuba wrested back their crown in 2004 before South Korea upset the established order by winning gold at Beijing in 2008, edging the Cubans in the final to finish the tournament unbeaten.

USA have fared better in women-only softball, winning the first three editions from 1996 to 2004 before Japan beat the Americans in the 2008 final.

Karate

Karate has a fight on its hands to retain its Olympic spot beyond 2020 with judo, another home-grown Japanese martial art, and Korea’s taekwondo already permanent fixtures on the Games roster.

Boxing and wrestling are also firmly established in what is a crowded schedule for combat sports.

Twenty competitors will take part in the kata discipline and another 60 will contest kumite at the Tokyo Budokan, the spiritual home of Japanese martial arts.

Additional reporting by – AFP, 2016

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