The president of the World Karate Federation, Antonio Espinós, is confident that the International Olympic Committee will include that martial art in the Olympic Program of the Los Angeles 2028 Games after its demonstration in Tokyo.
The IOC will define the plan of the 28 Olympic sports in the first months of 2022 and will consider the additional proposals of LA28 in 2024.
But the Spanish leader still has a glimmer of hope of seeing karate at the Paris Olympics following the IOC’s September report on the impact of the sports on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program.
This is what Espinós told Around the Rings from Madrid on Wednesday shortly after the long flight from the Japanese capital.
-Doesn’t the “debut and farewell” of karate in Tokyo sound strange to you?
“The truth is that it was announced very soon that we were not going to be in Paris, almost after we were going to be Olympians in Tokyo. Nobody understood it, because nobody explained it to us either.
“It has been an opaque process to decide on the additional sports by Paris. Why four sports and not five? What are the reasons for our exclusion? It was only a question of accepting 80 athletes, for one of the many existing facilities, and in a sport that is popular like few others in France and that could win several medals.
“We talk about the importance of urban sports and the approach to young people and what are we then, a rural sport and of old people?”
-What do you expect from the first evaluation of the Games?
“We thought that a fundamental element for a sport that enters the Olympic Games for the first time was to analyze its audiovisual impact, on TV stations, on social media, the digital landscape, after its participation. Next September we are going to have the study of the impact of karate not only in absolute values, but also relative, compared to other sports. From there we will have to draw many conclusions.
“We have done our own study, the IOC will have theirs, just like for each of the disciplines in the Tokyo program. We will have our own analysis not only of karate but of a number of things , but at this time I prefer not to detail. I hope the IOC cares enough.”
-Did the absence of the public harm the image and impact that karate needed?
“Man, with respect to the study I just mentioned, well no. The public is very important for the atmosphere. I’m convinced that the Nippon Budokan would have been packed the whole time. The impact and added value of karate at the Olympic Games is independent of whether there was a crowd or not.
“What couldn’t happen was the big party we had hoped for with family, friends and people supporting the athletes, but we trust in the IOC’s solidarity, and it’s a bit unfair to be told after Tokyo that we don’t want to hear from you anymore. I think we have seized the opportunity that only comes at the Olympic Games.”
-At this stage, do you still have any illusions about Paris 2024?
I think that if there was a will to find a solution, it would be found. For example, karate could be organized outside Paris, as will one or another sport. Specifically in Corsica, we would have the support of the local authorities and there are all the conditions there, and Paris would not be burdened at all.
“Just as karate needs the Olympic Games, the Olympic Games need karate. I hope we have been able to prove it when the figures for Tokyo 2020 are known in September and from there we will continue the fight.
“We hope to join the Olympic Program as a permanent sport when in the first months of 2022 the IOC defines that of LA2028.”
“The important thing now is to sediment everything that has happened in these days and restart the work next week.
“No less than 82 competitors from 36 countries, including two members of the IOC Refugee Team, have participated in the Olympic event. Twenty countries from four continents won medals. The 8 gold medals went to 8 nations. That is the universality of karate, naturally, not artificially.
“Until the last minute we will keep our hopes up. I believe there is room for everyone at the Olympics.”