(ATR) Leaders of the five sports making their Olympic debut or return at Tokyo 2020 tell Around the Rings they have big plans to showcase their disciplines and attract a more youthful audience to the Games.
While the venues for each discipline have been finalized, much work remains to determine the formats and presentation. The sports are baseball and softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.
With less than three years until the Games, here’s a preview of the format, plans and goals for each of the new Olympic sports:
Yokohama Stadium and Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium will stage the first Olympic baseball and softball games since Beijing 2008. Olympic organizers and the World Baseball Softball Confederation view the Games in Japan as the perfect location for the sport to make its Olympic return.
"We are in constant contact with Tokyo 2020 organizers and want to leverage our sport’s no. 1 popularity in Japan and continued global expansion to make the Games shine as bright as possible," WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari tells ATR.
"WBSC is determined to stage the best Olympic baseball and softball events in history, and we are working closely with Tokyo 2020 colleagues to ensure this vision becomes a reality."
Baseball/softball is the only one of the new sports that will have more male athletes than female although both tournaments will feature six teams. The sport is given the greatest athlete quota of the new entries, with 144 men and 90 women set to compete in the two tournaments. Fraccari says the schedule of the two tournaments is yet to be determined.
"We are presenting a new face, a new sport -- baseball and softball as ‘one’," he says. "Our presence on the Olympic programme has launched a new vision for baseball and softball in which we strive toward building a billion-strong baseball softball community by 2024, as part of a strategy to remain on the programme in 2024, 2028 and beyond."
The Nippon Budokan is the approved venue for karate’s Olympic debut in Japan. The sport will feature the disciplines of kata and kumite with three weight categories for the sparring discipline of kumite. The specific weight classes are one of the aspects that the World Karate Federation is collaborating on with Tokyo 2020 and the IOC.
"The road to our Olympic debut is a long and exciting process for us," WKF president Antonio Espinós tells ATR. "We are enjoying every step of the way, and we are working very closely with TOCOG to ensure that the presentation of Karate at the Olympic Games 2020 will be a memorable occasion.
"We have a very detailed road map of actions from now until 2020 and we are very pleased to have the chance to experience this historic moment for our sport."
Espinós says the federation has created an Olympic commission to determine the presentation of the sport and is collaborating extensively with karate experts in Japan.
Karate will have an even split of men and women. Twenty men and women 20 will compete in kata – a technical discipline focusing on form through a sequence of moves – and 60 men and women in kumite. The sparring discipline features 10 athletes in each of the three weight classes.
The Aomi Urban Sports Venue will host the two skateboarding disciplines planned for the Games.
International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) skateboarding manager Luca Basilico tells ATR the sport is ready for its Olympic debut but is continually seeking ways to improve.
"We are working hard to deliver skateboarding sport at its best: preserving its unique character and bringing value to skateboarder communities around the globe," Basilico says. "This takes time, deep knowledge and a lot of dedication."
Skateboarding will also have an even split of competitors, with 20 men and women in both the park and street disciplines.
"We are thrilled by the opportunity of showcasing skateboarding, its energy and creative power to the world," says Basilico. "It's exciting to be able to do it on the noblest and most acclaimed stage every sport can aim to."
The sport climbing competition will join skateboarding at the Aomi Urban Sports Venue. Twenty men and 20 women will race for the only two gold medals of the new discipline.
While there is only one event for both the men and women, the competition will feature the three climbing styles of bouldering, lead and speed climbing. The athlete’s score from each style counts toward a grand total.
International Federation of Sport Climbing officials say they are thrilled about its Olympic inclusion, but IFSC sport director Jérôme Meyer tells ATR there is no time to get complacent.
"Celebration time is over, and though there’s still some confetti remaining inside the house, we’re now all at work," says Meyer. "Excitement might be less visible, but the momentum is huge. Athletes are getting prepared, they all want to take part, National Federations and partners are passionately involved and we are all looking forward to the countdown."
The IFSC will utilize the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games as a stepping stone towards its Olympic debut by analyzing how the competition will be presented and ways it can improve for the 2020 Games.
The Tsurigasaki Beach Surfing Venue will showcase surfing’s Olympic debut as 20 men and 20 women compete in the sole discipline of short board.
International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre tells ATR the surfing competition at Tokyo 2020 will be a unique celebration of sport.
"We are going to deliver an atmosphere like no other at Tokyo 2020, bringing our unique blend of culture, music and style to the Olympics, and offering a festival of Surf that will live long in the memory for all involved," Aguerre says. "We are confident that through thorough preparation the surfing event will make a splash in the Games that has not been seen since Snowboarding was introduced to Nagano."
The ISA has the opportunity to test its plans for the Olympic competition at the upcoming Vissla ISA World Junior Surfing Championship also taking place in Japan. Aguerre adds that the ISA is working extensively with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 to finalize its plans for the Games.
"The ISA is in frequent communication with the Tokyo 2020 team and our Sport Manager for Surfing to ensure that both our goals and visions are met for the competition," he says.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will take place from July 24 to Aug. 9 and with three years left until the Opening Ceremony, organizers are eager to bring these new sports to a worldwide audience.
"Tokyo 2020 is confident that the 18 events in the five sports constitute a package that will add the most extra value to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020," a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson tells ATR. "These events will showcase the best mixture of traditionally popular sports in Japan and newer, youth-focused sports.
"The rising young stars in those sports have already expressed their excitement and expectations for the Games. This brings to mind all of the other young athletes around the world who are working very hard to fulfill their dreams. We feel a keen sense of responsibility for preparing the stage on which they will perform at their best in Tokyo in 2020."
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Written by Kevin Nutley
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