Climbing will be added to the 2020 Olympics

The Olympics will give the sport a boost of publicity.



by Gabriel C.-R.

Rock climbing has been added to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in an effort to make the games appeal to a younger audience. On August 3rd, 2016 the International Olympic Committee approved five new sports to be added to the two thousand twenty Olympics, including rock climbing.

The rock climbing competition is a mix of three climbing styles: bouldering, sport climbing, and speed climbing.  

In bouldering  one climber climbs up a short route, or boulder problem, and uses only climbing shoes, a chalk bag, and a crash pad (safety mat) with no ropes. The goal is to climb from the start hold to the finish hold without falling and the competitors are given points on the difficulty of the boulder problem.

In sport climbing the climber climbs a longer route than bouldering, and uses a rope for protection. The rope is clipped into draws (two carabiners that are connected by a strap) that are bolted to the wall. The rope is then attached to the climber on one end and run threw a belay device (the thing a person uses to hold another person on the wall) on the other. But the goal is the same as bouldering.

In contrast to sport climbing in speed climbing, two competitors climb identical routes at the same time and the climbers climb as fast as possible. It’s also different from sport climbing because the ropes are already anchored at the top of the wall. Speed climbing is not as popular because it’s so different from other forms of climbing.

Another aspect that is not ideal is that there will be only one female and one male competitor allowed per country. The International Federation of Sports Climbers originally proposed thirty male and thirty female competitors to compete and have medals for bouldering, sport, and speed climbing and also have a medal for the climbers with the highest combined scores. But the International Olympic Committee changed it so there are just twenty male and twenty female competitors competing for two medals total. The climbing community has also been concerned about the format, noting that it’s very different than climbing outdoors.

However, feedback from the climbing community has been mostly positive. “Climbing in the Olympics has always been a dream of mine, ever since I started competing 10 years ago.” said Kai Lightner a favorite going into the 2020 Olympic. “Olympic exposure will introduce our sport to the world and hopefully increase the amount of support and resources available to athletes. The format is less than ideal. There is some overlap between top athletes in sport climbing and bouldering. However, none of the top speed climbers are also elite in either of the other disciplines.”[1]

Hopefully, the rock climbing Olympic debut is successful because it is still uncertain whether or not it will be in the 2024 Olympics. But climbing may get some more attention from the media which will help the sport grow.

[1]Blanchard, Brendan,“Olympic Climbing Survey: 15 Pro Climbers Weigh in,”, (Sep. 23, 2016).