On the eve of an Olympics riven with fear over the future of the Games, organisers have added a further five sports to the programme for Tokyo 2020 in the hope of increasing its appeal to younger audiences.
Following decades where the status quo was roughly maintained until the reintroduction of golf and rugby sevens for Rio, a further five sports will be added to the programme for the next Olympics.
The international federations behind surfing, karate, baseball/softball, sport climbing and skateboarding were celebrating after the International Olympic Committee approved the addition of all five to the programme for the Tokyo Games.
IOC members unanimously agreed to introduce the package of sports, a decision that had been widely expected.
Baseball was last included in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 but the four other sports are all new to the Games and are considered part of an attempt to widen its appeal.
However, there was some dissent from the floor of the IOC session as some members wondered whether a baseball competition without professional American MLB players would lead to a similar controversy to that which has afflicted the return of golf.
The decision will add 18 events and 474 athletes, even as the IOC tries to balance innovation with a promise to make the Games easier to stage and less bloated.
The International Surfing Association president, Fernando Aguerre, said it was a “game-changing moment” for the sport.
“We are especially stoked for the athletes who now have their own dream to shoot for – to compete for their countries on the greatest sporting stage,” he said.
“We can’t wait to see the world’s best going head to head on the waves in Tokyo and millions of surfing fans revelling in the competition and the fantastic festival atmosphere of the beach party.”
The IOC president, Thomas Bach, who insisted this week that the Russian doping crisis had not harmed the Olympics, said: “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.
“Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfils all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. 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.”
Mori said: “The inclusion of the package of new sports will afford young athletes the chance of a lifetime to realise their dreams of competing in the Olympic Games – the world’s greatest sporting stage – and inspire them to achieve their best, both in sport and in life.”
The sports will be added to the programme for just a single Games, with the host of the 2024 Games – to be chosen next year from a list including Los Angeles and Paris – proposing their own additions.
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