LAUSANNE: Five sports, including baseball, skateboarding and surfing, are set to feature at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after the IOC on Wednesday recommended them to attract a younger audience and boost local support for the Games.
The International Olympic Committee must now rubber-stamp the inclusion of skateboarding, surfing, sports climbing and karate plus the joint baseball/softball bid at its session in Rio de Janeiro in August.
The IOC Executive Board voted unanimously in favour of the proposal put forward by Tokyo 2020, recommending it as a package, IOC vice president John Coates told reporters.
“This is a very good proposal,” Coates said. “It has a good balance between sports popular in Japan and those better engaging youth like surfing, skateboarding and sports climbing.”
Under new rules, Olympic host cities can hand-pick sports they want in the Games to join the existing 28 core sports.
“We have successfully passed the first gate,” Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori told reporters. “I am very happy with this result.”
He said the decision would also help Japan “catch up with the trends of the time”.
As part of sweeping reforms initiated in 2014, Olympic hosts can bring in sports popular in their countries to boost ratings and attract greater sponsorship as well as a younger generation of fans.
“It is an honour for our global sport to be represented within this new and innovative youth-focused Olympic sports package,” said World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari.
“Olympic baseball and softball in Japan would be the biggest and most exciting international competition in the history of our sport, and would help the Olympic Games touch the entire host nation and worldwide community.”
What is not yet clear is whether the United States will be able to send their best players from the MLB, which has traditionally snubbed past Olympics. The IOC said it hoped the world’s best baseball players would take part.