August 3, 2016 could have been a big day for bowling — perhaps one of the biggest ever for a sport that has been seeking to be included on the sporting world’s grandest stage for decades.
But after being cut from the “short list” of sports nominated by the organizing committee for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, yesterday instead belonged to five other sports: baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing. Those are the sports that will be added to the program in Tokyo.
The decision by the 129th International Olympic Committee Session in Rio de Janeiro was the most comprehensive evolution of the Olympic program in modern history. Plans call for staging the skateboarding and sports climbing events in temporary venues installed in urban settings, marking a historic step in bringing the Games to young people and reflecting the trend of “urbanization” of sport.
The Organizing Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Games proposed the five new sports in response to the new flexibility provided by Olympic Agenda 2020.
Wednesday’s vote was the culmination of a two-year process that began with the unanimous approval of the IOC’s strategic roadmap in 2014. The recommendation to give Organizing Committees the flexibility to propose new sports for their edition of the Games was intended to put even more focus on innovation, flexibility and youth in the development of the Olympic program.
Tokyo 2020, the first Organizing Committee able to take advantage of the change, submitted its proposal for the five new sports to the IOC in September 2015.
IOC President Thomas Bach said, “We want to take sport to the youth. With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfills all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said, “The inclusion of the package of new sports will afford young athletes the chance of a lifetime to realize their dreams of competing in the Olympic Games — the world's greatest sporting stage — and inspire them to achieve their best, both in sport and in life.”
The additional sports in Tokyo will not impact the athlete or event quotas of existing Olympic sports or be binding on future host cities. The current athlete and event quotas are unaffected.
The IOC considered a variety of factors when assessing the proposal, including the impact on gender equality, the youth appeal of the sports and the legacy value of adding them to the Tokyo Games.
The inclusion of the new sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes, with equal numbers of women and men for all sports except baseball/softball, which will have the same number of teams but different player totals, because softball teams have 15 players whereas baseball teams have 24. Tokyo 2020 will rely heavily on existing and temporary venues to stage the competitions.
Discussions on the event program for the existing 28 Olympic sports in the 2020 Olympic Games are ongoing, and will be finalized by the IOC Executive Board in mid-2017.