The Tokyo Olympics is set to be like no other. From the lack of fans in the stadium to the strict COVID bubbles that athletes will have to live in, it’s fair to say it’s going to be a weird one.
The Tokyo Olympics is also notable for having the most sports of any Olympic games. We’re topping out this year at a massive 339 events.
The previous Olympics, held in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, had just 28 sports across 306 events. The last games added two new sports, rugby sevens and golf.
This year we’re getting an additional five sports, while wrestling—a sport that has been a cornerstone of the games since ancient times—has been dropped.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new sports coming to Tokyo 2020.
Sports, disciplines, and events
So, the way the Olympics counts sports is actually quite confusing as they’re broken down into sports, disciplines, and events.
An Olympic ‘event’ is a specific competition where a medal is awarded at the end. The 100m sprint is an event, for example, that is part of the broader discipline of running.
Running is a discipline the events of the 200m, the 400m, and so on.
These are all part of the ‘discipline’ of athletics which also includes things like the pole vault, the javelin, and the marathon.
In the past, the host country of the Olympics had a lot of say over which sports were included in their Games. Now, those decisions are handled by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
IOC member countries often put forward new sports to be considered for upcoming games and these are voted on by the member countries based on fairly stringent criteria.
These include popularity, the global distribution of participation, and the impact on gender equality overall.
When counting how many sports actually make up the Olympics, some people only include those sports defined as defined by the IOC while others count each discipline as a separate sport.
Brazil 2016 had 28 sports but 42 disciplines. Tokyo will have 33 sports covering 50 different disciplines.
The new Olympic sports for 2020
Tokyo’s five new sports are as follows:
Climbing has seen a huge increase in popularity over the past few years with the rise attributed to documentaries like Free Solo and Valley Uprising.
This year’s Olympics will add sports climbing as a sport which covers three disciplines: speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing.
However, the sport is presented as a mixed-format sport like the triathlon.
This means medalists will have to earn a cumulative high score across all three events in order to win.
There will be both men’s and women’s sports climbing events at the Olympics next year, with 20 climbers competing in each.
Aussies rejoice! Our national pastime is finally being recognised by the IOC.
Twenty men and twenty women will compete in separate events on real waves at Shidshita beach, 40 miles outside of Tokyo on Japan’s pacific coast.
The competition will use shortboards, with four competitors at a time in the surf trying to show off their moves. The best two will go through to the next round.
Like in gymnastics, judges will determine the performance of the surfers. Scores will be based on the difficulty of manoeuvres and how they are executed, taking into account speed, power and flow.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater aficionados will be buzzing for this one as the past-time of rebels and rockstars rolls into the Olympics.
The sport will have two events in 2020, park and street.
Judges will award skaters a score based on difficulty and originality of tricks, speed, skill, and overall style.
True to its heritage, Tokyo has managed to get karate into the 2020 Olympics.
80 athletes will compete across two disciplines: ‘kata’ (form) and ‘kumite’ (sparring).
Kata is a demonstration of defensive and offensive movements directed at a dummy opponent. Competitors will be scored on their strength, speed, rhythm, balance, power of strikes and kicks, solidity, clarity, and force of movements.
Kumite sees two ‘karateka’ face each other in a matted arena using strikes, kicks, and punches to try and land blows on their opponent. The win points for a strike making contact as well as their form, power, and control.
There will be men’s and women’s events for kata and kumite, with the latter taking place over three weight classes.
Baseball and softball have returned to the Olympic schedule after being bumped off since Beijing’s 2008 Games.
The inclusion is a temporary one and its popularity will determine whether the games remain as sports for following games.
Baseball will see two teams of nine players aiming to score the most runs by hitting a ball and running through the bases back to home base. The team with the most runs after nine innings of alternate batting and fielding wins.
Softball is a very similar sport but with a shorter distance between the pitcher and the batter, a larger, softer ball, and a shorter bat.