(ATR) World Karate Federation president Antonio Espinos tells Around the Rings he received "positive feedback" in Tokyo regarding karate’s push for Olympic inclusion. Espinos met with Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe and Japan sports minister Hakubun Shimomura on Thursday.
"I think the situation is good," Espinos told ATR. "Our federation in Japan is working very efficiently and very well.
"We have been received very positively."
Espinos and a small delegation of WKF officials are on a two-day visit to Tokyo. On Friday, they will promote the sport’s Olympic ambitions at a meeting with Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori and Japanese IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda, who heads the Japanese Olympic Committee.
Karate is vying to be added to the roster of Olympic sports after two unsuccessful Olympic bids. The WKF hopes the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms, which move the Games from a sport- to an event-based system, will help its quest to join the Olympics.
Asked what his key message to Tokyo 2020 leaders will be tomorrow, Espinos said: "To make them aware how important it is for karate to be in the Olympics, other values we can bring to the Olympics and how simply it is to implement it."
He said the benefits of karate joining the Japanese Games outweighed the costs and organizational issues for Tokyo 2020.
"Karate has a lot to add to the program," he said.
Two weeks’ ago, the Japanese Karate Federation visited the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to submit a written petition with a "fervent appeal" for karate be included in the 2020 Olympics.
Espinos praised the work of the JKF in advancing karate’s Olympic aspirations.
"We are very encouraged in continuing to work for it and we will do our best," Espinos said.
After overseeing two failed Olympic bids since 2005, he remains cautiously confident. Baseball-softball, squash, wakeboard and wushu are among other federations lobbying to join the Tokyo 2020 program.
"I don’t want to be too optimistic. I want to be realistic after the times we have been trying. I want to have my feet on the ground," Espinos said, adding that karate had to "squeeze all the possibilities".
"It would be so important and so big," he said of a successful Olympic campaign, a project he has spearheaded for nearly a decade.
"I don’t want to create many expectations in our sport and community, if in the end we don’t get it," he added.
After Wednesday’s discussions with Tokyo 2020, the karate chief said he would wait to hear from Tokyo 2020 about its decision-making process about a new sport and new events for the Games; the IOC is restricting the Summer Games to a maximum of 310 events.
"The process is still to be decided, then we will know what steps we have to take."
Reported by Mark Bisson
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