The Tokyo Olympics will reach new heights, ride the crest of a wave, and roll out of the park.
You can guarantee the Games will hit that triple whammy, as sport climbing, surfing and baseball are all part of Japan’s great spectacle.
The Games of the 32nd Olympiad have been hit hard by the pandemic, but the diversity of ‘new’ sports on offer means a feast of entertainment is looming, designed to appeal to younger audiences.
Skateboarding an Olympic sport? After snowboarding was a big hit at the Winter Games, it’s a banker that kickflips and Caballerials will come to the summer schedule.
And soon we will master all the technical aspects of lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering.
The Olympics are getting a makeover and you’ll want to take a close look.
Given that the Olympic motto is “faster, higher, stronger”, it’s perhaps surprising that rock climbing hasn’t been a part of the Games so far.
Yet this version of the sport is a relatively modern phenomenon, having first established itself in the 1980s.
Climbing walls are as common in many parts of the world as ice rinks or bowling alleys, becoming a popular leisure activity but a competitive sport for some.
Complicated routes to dizzying heights, in search of the most controlled hold possible, are the hallmark of lead climbing, while speed climbing is an attack on the senses for both competitor and spectator, the elite men being known to run down a 15 meter wall in as little as five seconds.
Bouldering is a test of problem-solving expertise as well as skill, a true test of the climber’s mind and athleticism.
At Tokyo’s Aomi Urban Sports Park, the men’s and women’s rock climbing competition will cover all three disciplines, with combined scores determining the medals.
Sailing, canoeing, and kayaking were mainstays of the Olympics, and now surfing joins the roster of sports as a high-octane addition.
The daredevil nature of the surf means it should prove to be one of the standout shows, assuming Mother Nature brings the Pacific Coast waves that Games organizers are looking for.
Each of the 20 men and 20 women competing will be allowed to ride up to 25 waves in 30 minutes, with their two highest reaches among the five judges counted, so timing the high-priced maneuver is paramount. .
Surfing stars will be judged on their “commitment and degree of difficulty, innovative and progressive maneuvers, combinations of major maneuvers, variety of maneuvers, speed, power and fluidity”, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.
American John John Florence is one to watch, with the 28-year-old former double world champion having honed his skills on the waves of his native Hawaii. He suffered a worrying knee injury in Perth, Australia in May but recovered in time for the Games.
Once widely described as the preserve of weed-smoking punk kids, and certainly still frequented by disgruntled youngsters, skateboarding now comes with a highly professional element.
Washington Square Park, Venice Beach and the basement of London’s Southbank Center have been the epicenters of the growing subculture, but now the focus is turning to Tokyo, where separate street and park disciplines will highlight ordeal the elite boarders.
Competitors will be evaluated on the level of difficulty, originality and execution of their demonstrations at Ariake Urban Sports Park.
It will be the celebration of skateboarding’s coming out as a major competitive sport, with the eyes of millions around the world fixing their eyes on the stars who put themselves at greater risk of injury than most Olympians.
Japan’s Yuto Horigome and Aori Nishimura won gold at the Men’s and Women’s World Street Championships in Rome just a few weeks ago, sparking interest on home soil.
Britain’s 12-year-old Sky Brown, set to become her country’s youngest summer Olympian, will also be one to watch after recovering from a horrific skateboarding accident last year that left her seen suffering from skull fractures. They are a tough set in this sport, with surely no one braver than Brown.
Of course, karate was to be a part of any 21st century Olympics hosted by Japan, and it may come as a surprise to many that this marks its Games debut.
The sport has Japanese roots and it seems certain there will be gold medals on home soil, while global karate exposure may be at an all-time high thanks to the popularity of the Karate Kid spin-off Cobra Kai, the Netflix series.
Spain is also a powerful force, with Damian Quintero and Sandra Sanchez the main contenders for gold in the discipline of kata, both ranked number one in the world.
In the combat element, known as kumite, the lingo can take some getting used to for newcomers. A point, known as a Yuko, is awarded for a punch to key areas of an opponent including the head, back or torso, while a Waza-ari is worth two points and will be given for a kick to the body.
An Ippon, for three points, is obtained by kicking an opponent high to the head or punching an opponent on the ground.
Karate will take place at the famous Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, which, in addition to being a famous martial arts venue, also hosted the Beatles for a series of shows in 1966.
Rock bands including Bob Dylan and Cheap Trick recorded legendary live albums at the Budokan, which was built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and also staged Muhammad Ali fights, one a boxing match standard in 1972 and the other a bizarre hybrid clash in 1976 with the wrestler. Antonio Inoki.
Baseball and softball
Baseball was an Olympic medal sport from 1992 to 2008 and softball had that status from 1996 to 2008, so you’d be forgiven for not feeling a huge surge of excitement about its return to the Games.
Unlike basketball, the United States doesn’t bring its baseball A-listers to the Games, relying on a largely minor league and free agent squad, and South Korea were the last Olympic champions. .
This year’s competition will feature the Dominican Republic, Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the United States, while the women’s softball event will be contested by Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the United States.
The Japanese baseball stars would each be in line for bonuses worth 10 million yen (£65,000) if they win the gold medal.
They won an exhibition event at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, beating the United States in the final, and have since won a silver and two bronze medals.