In 2020, five new sports will enter (or return) as Olympic disciplines for the Tokyo Games. Explanations on their selection, which is not done only on sporting criteria.

Surfers, karatekas, skaters, we won’t see these athletes at the Olympic Games in Rio this year, but they will participate in the Tokyo Olympics in four years.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Wednesday, August 3, the inclusion of five new sports in the program of the 2020 Olympics, after a unanimous vote of its 85 members: climbing, skateboarding, baseball/softball (its female version), karate and surfing.

It was the Tokyo Organizing Committee that proposed the integration of these sports last September. This will bring the number of disciplines represented in Japan to 33 (compared with 28 in Brazil). Eighteen events will be added, and an additional 474 athletes will compete, says the IOC.

“There can be no better place to start our Olympic adventure,” the president of the World Karate Federation (a sport born in Japan) told Reuters.

It goes away, and it comes back

For baseball, on the other hand, this will not be a start, but rather a start. Indeed, the sport was declared Olympic in 1982 but was removed from the program for the Beijing Games in 2008. The cause: the disagreement at the time between the IOC and Major League Baseball (MLB), The North American Championship where the stars play, as explained in 2013 to the “Monde” Michel Vigneault, sports historian :

“The IOC wanted the stars. However, the MLB refused to release its best players. Moreover, the uncomplicated organization of doping in this sport is another important obstacle.”

As well, no sport is listed ad infinitum in the list of Olympic disciplines. Even the traditional sport of the Games, which already existed in antiquity, was almost ousted in 2013.

This year, two sports made their return for the Rio Olympics after several years of absence: golf (Olympic discipline in 1900 in Paris and 1904 in Saint-Louis) and rugby in VII. Rugby, an Olympic sport four times between 1900 and 1924, had been eliminated from the Games after a violent final between France and the United States in 1924: the match had been interspersed with fights, and the field had been invaded by the supporters. So it is with teams reduced to seven players that rugby returns in 2016.

Modernizing and rejuvenating the Olympic Games

According to the IOC rules, to enter the program of the Olympic Games, a sport must “first of all be administered by an International Federation which undertakes to follow the rules of the Olympic Charter, a basic condition for being recognized by the IOC.”It must also” be widely practiced throughout the world”.

Also, there are some thirty criteria, such as the history of the discipline, its image, its impact on the environment, athletes ‘ health, development opportunities, etc.

A financial stake

But other criteria, less admitted, also enter into account in the examination of the candidatures of the disciplines, as explained in 2015 for” Le Plus “Patrick Clastres, historian of the sport, evoking for example “the lobbying of the federations”.

“In 1928, if the athletics events were open to women, it was to put under control the International Women’s Sports Federation […] which federation had created its own women’s World Games under the leadership of Frenchwoman Alice Milliat.”

For Patrick Clastres, ” the IOC is not an international humanitarian organization”:

“This is not the Red Cross of sport: behind each Olympic sport, there is a media and financial stake.”

This will make it difficult for a sport to be selected if it generates little income. This is not the case with baseball/softball since according to the organizers of the Tokyo Games, the return of this double discipline would bring back $ 50 million (€44.7 million) in additional ticket sales alone.

Patrick Clastres also notes “the influence of sponsors”, and takes golf as an example, ” targeting the high society, which consumes luxury products.”

“”Golf is the most profitable sport for champions and advertisers. Having golfers at the Olympics is therefore extremely profitable in terms of sponsorship.””

Bowling, squash, and wushu (a Chinese martial art) did not meet the various criteria required by the IOC, as these sports were among the candidate sports excluded by the Tokyo Olympic Committee.