During the London Olympics I had a few people ask me if climbing was going to be in a future Olympics. One of our guides at Front Range Climbing Company even told me that he heard it was going to be in the 2020 Olympics. The answer, however, to those questions is "No, climbing will not be in the Olympics."
I wrote a blog post Climbing Possible for 2020 Olympics: Will It Make the Cut? in July, 2011 about the topic after the IOC announced that climbing, along with baseball, karate, roller sports, softball, squash, wakeboard, and wushu, was one of eight sports being considered for a single spot in the 2020 Olympics in Madrid, Istanbul, or Tokyo. The IOC will decide next year which lucky sport will be included.
At the next summer Games in 2016 at Rio de Janiro, golf and rugby will compete for medals for the first time since 1904 and 1924 respectively. For the next Games it's a total crap shoot. I talked a couple times in the past weeks to a couple people I know here in Colorado Springs that work for either the U.S. Olympic Training Center or one of the national sports federations headquartered here and both told me that climbing would not be in the 2020 Olympics and probably not in the foreseeable future.
It appears right now that squash is the frontrunner for Olympic inclusion. Squash is played on every continent and has been in the Commonwealth Games since 1996.
Baseball and softball, both former Olympic sports, have banded together for a single bid since their dismissal from the Games in 2008. Whether they get the nod remains to be seen, partly because few countries play the sports and the United States has dominated the competitions. It seems doubtful that they will be included so soon after getting the boot.
Karate and wushu, both martial arts, are longer shots since two other martial arts are already contested; they would, however, be inexpensive to add and would allow some smaller countries a chance for medals.
Roller sports are also iffy, particularly since most athletes in inline hockey, inline speed skating, artistic roller skating, and roller derby are from North America and Europe.
Wakeboarding is a young and new sport, like snowboarding and BMX, which appeal to youthful audiences, and the advent of using cables instead of motorboats to pull the athletes over the course levels the playing field. Big drawback is that wakeboarding is popular primarily in North America, Europe, and Australia.
Which leaves climbing as the last entrant. The IOC has been impressed with the sportsmanship exhibited by competing climbers in international competitions but climbing has a small following, few competitions, and little media coverage beyond specialty climbing magazines and websites. Climbing, as proposed for the Olympics, would be divided into three disciplines--lead climbing, speed climbing, and bouldering. It remains to be seen if climbing will make the final cut next year to compete with the leading sports for the opportunity to be in the 2020 Olympics. According to my expert sources, the short answer is: "Don't hold your breath."
John Long, a leading climber from the 1970s and a well-known climbing writer (a fellow FalconGuide author with me), talked with John Spaulding at falcon.com about the possibilities of climbing in the Olympics, what it's impact would be on the sport of climbing, and if climbing's inclusion in the Games would greatly increase its popularity. Read the full interview Long On...Climbing as an Olympic Sport.