The International Olympic Committee has decided to add baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing to the Olympic program for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, announced IOC president.
The addition of new sports comes as a result of the IOC’s decision to get rid of the 28-sport limit in December 2014. The Summer Olympics will instead be capped at 10,500 athletes and 310 medals. All five sports made a good enough case for international and local appeal for spectators and fans of the Olympics. The additions will also add at least 18 events and 474 athletes to the Summer Games.
Here's a look at the Olympic history behind the new sports:
Baseball / Softball
Baseball, one of the world's most popular sports, was last contested at the Olympics in 2008. Cuba has won the most gold medals with victories in 1992, '96 and 2004, and the United States won gold in 2000 and bronze medal in Atlanta and Beijing. Japan will be chasing its first gold in 2020—the closest they have come was a silver-medal finish in 1996.
With the Tokyo Olympics on track to be held from July 24 to August 9, several major league baseball stars may opt to not participate in the middle of the MLB season, allowing younger talent to play in the tournament. Several members of the the IOC voiced their concerns regarding baseball’s stars being at the Summer Games since golf has failed on their promise to deliver the likes of Jordan Speith or Rory McIllroy in Rio.
Softball was an Olympic sport from 1996–2008, and Team USA won gold every year except for ’08, losing to Japan in the final. Australia is the only other country to medal at all four Olympics.
Baseball and softball will be held at several stadiums that already meet requirements. Tokyo 2020 organizers are leaning toward Yokohama Stadium.
This is the first time that surfing has been an Olympic sport, and while there are still details to figure out for the 2020 Games, surfing could be held at the chiba prefecture in the Kantō region where a beach party may simultaneously be held.
The lead-up to Rio taught us a lot about the importance of a country’s water conditions before hosting, and if the surfing competition is held in the ocean, Tokyo will also be monitored closely. Tokyo’s waves in the summer are also not the most impressive in the world. The sport has tried to make its case for inclusion at every Olympics since 2000 and fallen short each time. Top stars like Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning have backed the bid for the Olympics.
Climbing at the Olympics will consist of a male and female division with two events for each: bouldering, and lead and speed combined. Medals will be awarded based on the best score and performance over all disciplines.
In lead climbing, the competitors start at the bottom of a course and must climb within a set time frame and on only one attempt. Speed climbing involves a sometimes easier course that athletes focus on completing as fast as possible. Bouldering involves no ropes and can be attempted several times as courses are shorter and more difficult within a set amount of time. All three disciplines will show the sport’s difficulty yet the pure athleticism of its stars.
Unless you religiously follow the X Games, Tony Hawk may be the only recognizable name in the sport of skateboarding for the common sports fan. Skateboarding at the Olympics will attract a young crowd and bring some of the fans from the X-Games that love high-flying and fast-paced action to the Summer Games.
At the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, skateboarding and climbing will be held in a temporary urban cluster by the waterfront area. Music and entertainment will be part of the presentation in those two sports.
Karate, which originated in Japan, will make its Olympic debut before its loving home crowd. The Olympic competition will feature 60 athletes in six kumite and two kata demonstration categories. Kata is more of a demonstration sport that shows off karate’s technique. Kumite is fighting that involves punching and kicking.