Here’s what to know about the new Olympic sports debuting at the Tokyo Games.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the new Olympic sports?
- Why were new Olympic sports added?
- What are the different disciplines in these sports, and when will they be contested?
- Who are the athletes to watch?
- Who are the favorites in baseball and softball?
- Will these sports be included at the 2024 Paris Games?
What are the new Olympic sports?
Why were new Olympic sports added?
The IOC now allows the organizing committees of each Games to propose new events for particular editions of the Olympics. That flexibility is outlined in Olympic Agenda 2020, which was adopted in December 2014 and viewed as a road map for the International Olympic Committee. The Tokyo Games were the first to take advantage of this change.
When the international governing body approved the inclusion of those events in August 2016, IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement: “We want to take sport to the youth. With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. … Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
What are the different disciplines in these sports, and when will they be contested?
Baseball and softball: Competition in these sports runs through nearly the entire course of the Olympics. Softball begins with a game between Australia and Japan on July 21, two days before the Opening Ceremonies. Medals in softball will be awarded July 27. Baseball begins July 28, with its knockout stage starting Aug. 1 and the gold-medal game Aug. 7.
Karate: Medals will be awarded Aug. 5 (women’s kata, men’s kumite -67 kg, women’s kumite -55 kg), Aug. 6 (men’s kata, women’s kumite -61 kg, men’s kumite -75 kg) and Aug. 7 (women’s kumite +61 kg, men’s kumite +75 kg).
In the kumite discipline, athletes are separated into weight classes and spar with one another in bouts. Kata is a demonstration of form, judged on techniques and movements.
Skateboarding: The men’s street competition will be held July 25, followed by the women’s on July 26. In the street discipline, athletes navigate a course with urban features, such as stairs, rails and ledges. The women’s park competition will be held Aug. 4, followed by the men’s on Aug. 5. In the park discipline, athletes perform tricks in a concrete bowl.
Sport climbing: Competition begins with the qualification rounds for men (Aug. 3) and women (Aug. 4). The finals, which include three disciplines — speed, bouldering and lead — are held for the men Aug. 5 and the women Aug. 6. Athletes receive medals based on their combined results. Their rankings from each discipline are multiplied and the lowest overall score wins.
In the speed discipline, athletes race head-to-head up a wall in pairs. A single-elimination tournament determines the final rankings. Bouldering requires athletes to scale shorter but difficult routes that they do not see until the competition begins. Competitors are ranked based on how far they progress in the allotted time and how many attempts they need. In the lead discipline, athletes climb a route with only one attempt. If participants reach the same hold on the wall, whoever did so in the shortest amount of time is ranked highest.
Surfing: Competition begins July 25, and medals for men and women will be awarded July 28. The schedule could change depending on wave conditions. Once the elimination rounds begin, athletes compete in heats that include two surfers. They are evaluated by judges, with a 10.0 the highest score. Each athlete’s total for the heat is the sum of his or her two best scoring waves.
Who are the athletes to watch?
Skateboarding: American star Nyjah Huston will be a medal favorite in the street discipline. He’s won four street world championships and tops the world rankings. Yuto Horigome of Japan will be a key challenger; after Huston won three straight world championships from 2017 to 2019, Horigome earned the title in 2021.
Mariah Duran is the best American street skater on the women’s side. She’s ranked sixth in the world, with a pair of Brazilians, Pamela Rosa and Rayssa Leal, at the top of those standings. Leticia Bufoni of Brazil will be a medal favorite, along with Japan’s Aori Nishimura, who won the 2021 world championship.
In the park discipline, Misugu Okamoto will compete in her home country as a medal favorite. Japan’s three competitors in this event are all in the top six of the world rankings, with Okamoto in the No. 1 spot. Sky Brown, the 13-year-old who competes for Great Britain, qualified for the Games ranked third in the world. Americans Heimana Reynolds and Cory Juneau could be contenders to earn medals on the men’s side.
Surfing: Americans Carissa Moore and John John Florence both head to Tokyo with multiple world titles.
Australia’s Stephanie Gilmore will contend for a medal as a seven-time world champion. The United States and Australia have historically dominated the sport on the world stage, but Brazilians, including Tokyo Olympians Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina, have won recent men’s titles in the World Surf League.
Climbing: Adam Ondra, a 28-year-old from the Czech Republic, is considered one of the best in the world. He’s a five-time world champion and excels in bouldering and lead climbing. (In other world climbing competitions, medals are also awarded in each discipline, rather than only for combined results.) Japan’s Tomoa Narasaki won the combined gold medal at the 2019 world championships.
On the women’s side, Slovenia’s Janja Garnbret is a six-time world champion, claiming gold medals in bouldering, lead climbing and the combined event in 2019. That year, she became the first climber to win all six World Cup events in bouldering in a season.
Karate: Spain’s Damián Quintero and Sandra Sánchez top the kata world rankings. Sánchez, 39, has won six straight European championships. Japan has the second-ranked athletes in both the men’s kata (Ryo Kiyuna) and the women’s kata (Kiyou Shimizu). American Sakura Kokumai is No. 7 in the women’s world rankings.
In the kumite discipline, men’s medal contenders include 2018 world champion Steve Da Costa of France and Italy’s Angelo Crescenzo in the -67 kg competition. Five-time world champion Rafael Aghayev of Azerbaijan (-75 kg) and Turkey’s Ugur Aktas (+75 kg) should also contend for spots on the podium. Croatia‘s Ivan Kvesić (+75 kg) is a recent gold medalist at the world championships and European championships.
On the women’s side, Ukraine’s Anzhelika Terliuga (-55 kg) tops the world rankings in her weight class. Serbia’s Jovana Prekovic (-61 kg) and Azerbaijan’s Irina Zaretska (+61 kg), both 2018 world champions, will also compete in Tokyo. China’s Yin Xiaoyan leads the world rankings in the -61 kg weight class and finished second to Prekovic in 2018.
At the world championships, there are five weight classes in the kumite competition, but there will be only three weight classes in Tokyo.
Who are the favorites in baseball and softball?
The International Olympic Committee added baseball to the Olympic program for the 1992 Games, and it was contested through 2008. Cuba won the gold medal three times (1992, 1996 and 2004). The United States won in 2000 and has finished on the podium two other times. South Korea won the gold medal in 2008.
Japan — a country that loves baseball, which is why the sport is making a reappearance at these Games — will pause its top league, Nippon Professional Baseball, while the nation pursues an Olympic medal. The Korea Baseball Organization will also go on hold to allow players to participate in the Games.
Will these sports be included at the 2024 Paris Games?
Olympic competitions in sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing will be held again at the next Summer Games. Karate, baseball and softball will not be included in the 2024 Olympics.
What other new sports might be added to the Olympics?
In addition to the three new sports from Tokyo that will remain part of the Olympic program, the Paris Games will feature the debut of breaking, also known as break dancing. The 2024 Games will include 329 medal events.
New sports for the 2028 Los Angeles Games have not yet been announced. The IOC will consider the organizing committee’s proposal in 2024.