There are 33 sports on the program for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games – with five of them new to the Olympics. With the Tokyo Games fast approaching, it is time to get up to speed with these new sports. The first I will be featuring is sport climbing. You might be familiar with outdoor rock climbing, however, the Olympic “sport climbing” event is a little different, being performed indoors on an artificial climbing wall, but requiring much the same skills.
Is it really the first time climbing has been at the Olympics?
After lobbying for inclusion into the Olympic Games for many years, sport climbing was finally accepted onto the program for 2020. But it is not really the first time that climbing has been part of the Olympics. In the early years of the Olympics, there was another climbing event as part of the gymnastics program – rope climbing. In this event, the competitors climbed a suspended vertical rope as fast as possible using only their hands. It was not just a one-off event either, rope climbing was part of the official Olympic program in 1896, 1904, 1906, 1924 and 1932.
There have been more Olympic climbing, though not as a medal event. Back in 1924, there was a mountain climbing prize. There was no actual competition, the Olympic “Alpinism Prize” was awarded for the most notable alpinism feat accomplished during the previous four years. And probably best forgotten, is the pole climbing competition that was part of the racist 1904 Anthropology Days, where men from indigenous populations competed in various events so that anthropologists could see how they compared to the white man.
So really, it is not the first time climbing has been part of the Olympics, but it is the first time in this current competitive format.
What Does Sport Climbing Involve?
The sport climbing event that will make its debut in Tokyo requires great feats of strength, speed and flexibility and a lot of skill. It will be exciting to watch. Climbers use a range of hand and footholds of different shapes and sizes to scale a vertical wall. The wall can feature both positive and negative angles. The competitors must climb using only their bare hands and climbing shoes, though in some disciplines safety gear may be worn.
The climbing competition at the Olympics is divided into three disciplines – lead climbing, speed climbing, and bouldering.
- Speed climbing – two athletes race up a 15-meter wall side-by-side on an identical course. The first to the top wins and progresses to the next round
- Bouldering – the competitors attempt to scale fixed routes of varying difficulty on a 4.5m wall in a set time.
- Lead Climbing – how high a climber can go in six minutes?
There is one gold medal for male and females up for grabs. The final rankings are determined by multiplying the place in each of the three disciplines, with the athlete with the lowest score winning.
The sport climbing event will be held from Aug 2-5 at the Aomi Urban Sports Park, a temporary venue in the waterfront Aomi district. Make sure you tune in to see history being made.