What’s New in this Year’s Olympics?

Rory Cassidy

The rescheduled Olympic Games in Tokyo are fast approaching with just over 100 days to go until the Opening Ceremony takes place at the Japan National Stadium on Friday, 23rd July. Given the continuing challenges of Covid-19 all eyes will be on Tokyo to see how successfully the games will be run. 

Irish athletes are currently working hard to book their tickets on the plane, and it is hoped that we win more medals than just the two we won in Rio in 2016. This year’s Games will feature 33 sports. Five new sports will be making an appearance: sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding, karate, and baseball/softball. 


Sport Climbing

The world governing body The International Federation of Sport Climbing believes that 25 million people globally are climbing regularly. 

At this summer’s Olympics there will be three disciplines; speed climbing, bouldering, and lead climbing, with the gold medal going to the climber who achieves the highest score. 

In speed climbing, two competitors race up a 15m artificial wall with the aim of getting to the top as quickly as possible, bouldering involves climbers scaling a number of fixed routes on a 4m wall within a given time, while lead climbing sees competitors attempt to climb as high as possible on an overhanging 15m wall within a six-minute time limit.



Surfing will take place on the waves at Shidshita beach. Surfing boards that are around six feet will be used in the competition.

The competition will use a four-man heat structure – four athletes will compete at a time. The best two of each heat continue to the next round.

Judges will examine and analyse the performance of the competitors and provide a score based on different factors, including difficulty. To win a medal athletes will have to demonstrate a variety of dynamic moves on large waves. 



There will be two different events at this year’s Olympics: Park and Street. 

In the Street event, the competitors perform individually and show off their skills on stairs, handrails, curbs, benches, walls, and slopes. Similar, to surfing, they are scored on the difficulty and execution of the moves they attempt. 

Some of the terms to watch out for if you’re watching include ‘Slide’, ‘Grind’, ‘Ollie’, ‘Regular Stance’ and ‘Goofy Stance’.

The Park event will take place on a hollowed-out course featuring a series of curved surfaces that rise steeply. 



This sport will consist of kata (forms) and kumite (sparring). There are three weight classes each for men’s and women’s kumite events.

Kata involves demonstrating both offensive and defensive movements, with a virtual opponent. They are scored on things such as strength, speed, rhythm, balance, power of strikes and much more. 

In kumite, two competitors go head-to-head. They are allowed to use three techniques: striking, kicking, and punching. The target area is the opponent’s body.



These sports are back on the programme for the first time since 2008. Softball is hugely popular in Japan hence why it returns this year. 

In baseball there are two teams of nine players who aim to score the most runs by hitting a ball and running around a sequence of bases to reach the ‘home plate’. They switch from batting to bowling and vice versa when the opposing team gets three players out. The team with the most runs after nine innings of alternate batting and fielding wins.

Softball is very similar to baseball. There is, however, a shorter distance between pitcher and batter, the ball is larger, and the bat is shorter.

The ball must be thrown underhand when pitching, this means the ball is released while the wrist is passing the side of the body.


Closing thoughts

These five new sports will without doubt be welcome additions to the Olympics. The sheer athleticism, skill and training that are required for these athletes to reach this level are more than enough to earn them their place in Japan. More than that however, each of these sports will be a spectacle to behold and should make the Olympics all the more riveting to watch.


Rory Cassidy

Image Credit: Getty Images