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Stewart Green

Will Climbing Make It into the 2020 Olympics?

By August 17, 2012

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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.


August 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm
(1) Steve says:

The 2020 Olympics aren’t in Madrid. They can be but a vote between Madrid, Istambul, and Tokyo, does not take place until September 2013

August 18, 2012 at 3:16 pm
(2) climbing says:

Right Steve, I was jumping the gun! Madrid appears to be a favorite but the vote is still to come…

August 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm
(3) ava says:

The olympics are not in Madrid neather are they the favorites to win they will anounce who will win the bid spetember of next year the favorites are tokyo and istanbul. madrid still has a chance to win but not most likely because of the economic problems in spain

August 20, 2012 at 7:45 am
(4) gabor taborosi says:

Thanks God, not US officials will be competent to decide. Everyone, living in the competition climbing field seriously hope, that your opinion is not true.
gabor taborosi
president of the Competition Section of Hungarian Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation

August 20, 2012 at 11:15 am
(5) Alfredo Velazquez says:

I guess there are two misunderstandings in the your post: The IOC has not decide yet about Madrid as a host city for the 2020 Olympic Games and the sport candidate is not “rock” climbing, is “sport climbig” in an climbing wall.

The eight sports has the same oportunity since they were shortlisted by the IOC.

The big day will be september 13th 2013.

World Up, Keep Climbing

Best regards

Alfredo Velazquez
Mexican Sport Climbing Federation

August 20, 2012 at 11:19 am
(6) Alfredo Velazquez says:

I guess there are two misunderstandings in the your post: The IOC has not decide yet about Madrid as a host city for the 2020 Olympic Games and the sport candidate is not “rock” climbing, is “sport climbig” in an climbing wall.

The eight sports has the same oportunity since they were shortlisted by the IOC.

The big day will be september 13th 2013.

World Up, Keep Climbing

Best regards

Alfredo Velazquez
Mexican Soport Climbing Federation

August 20, 2012 at 9:05 pm
(7) climbing says:

Thank you for your comments Mr. Taborosi and Mr. Velazquez. I appreciate your thoughts about climbing in the Olympic Games.

I too hope that climbing makes the cut and will be in the 2020 Games, but I am reporting what appears to be the realistic outcome right now based on what insiders in the US tell me.

Mr. Taborosi, the US Olympic officials will certainly not be deciding in any way if climbing is or is not in the Games and while I am sure they have favorites among the sports being considered, they will put forth what they believe is the best additional sport for 2020…but the IOC committee will make the final decision.

And yes, Mr. Velazquez, the eight sports all have a chance for approval but some do have greater odds for selection than others. If you reread my post you will also see that I state that Madrid, along with Tokyo and Istanbul are the 3 candidates. If Madrid is approved, it seems that climbing has a better chance of being the new sport since there is a long climbing tradition in Espana. My understanding is that climbing is the sport under consideration and if it is approved then whatever disciplines–lead climbing, speed climbing, and bouldering–will be decided later.

Like many climbers, I would love to see our wonderful sport included in the Games so the world can see superb climbing athletes and better understand our climbing sport and lifestyle. In the 1990s I served several years on the Board of the ASCF, the precursor to today’s USA Climbing organization.

September 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm
(8) John says:

Actually Karate is not a long shot at all. You say there are already other martial arts in the Olympics, the same can be said for Squash, you arleady have numerous games that are played using a ball within the Olympics, Table Tennis, Tennis, (golf 2016), Rugb (2016), Football….So your argument is flawed.

Also Karate is a sport that is on every continent and has millions of participants. As for saying smaller countries could win medals, its got nothing to do with how small a country is but how good the person taking part is.

November 14, 2012 at 1:12 am
(9) Alexandre J Silva says:

Wushu a great sport and the fight would be an advantage for various countries , Wushu is chinese martial art’s ( know as modern sport “kung fu/Gung Fu” )

**IWUF has 148 affiliated countries

Wushu Sanda – modern chinese full contact
Wushu Taolu – demonstration with or without arms, too tai ji quan (modern tai chi chuan ) forms, Dulian (fights combined)

Alexandre J Silva
Espirito Santo Wushu Federation – Brazil
vinculed Brazilian Wushu Gung Fu Federation (CBKW)
vinculed Internacional Wushu Federation (IWUF) Beijing – china

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