Get ready to see these new additions - and a couple of others - at the Tokyo Olympics, which runs from 23 Jul to 8 Aug 2021. | Photos: (from left) Unsplash/Brent Storm, Thao Le Hoang and Jan Kopřiva
The answer: Skateboarding, surfing and karate – along with sport climbing and (the return of) baseball and softball – are new sports that have been added to the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
Every new edition of the Olympics is marked with the addition of new sports to compete for the prestigious Olympic gold medal. But how does a new sport even get included in the Olympics?
It needs to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
After it’s recognised, it will be given International Sports Federation (IF) status.
The sport’s IF must apply to get it into the Olympics by filing a petition.
To be accepted, the sport must be played by men in 75 countries and four continents, plus it must be played by women in 40 countries and three continents.
In addition to increasing the “value and tradition” of the Olympics, the sport cannot be “mind sports” like chess or have “mechanical propulsion” like motor racing.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that a sport automatically gets to stay in the games. The last time baseball and softball were played was in Beijing 2008, while other games like cricket and polo haven’t been part of the Olympics for a long time.
On a mind-blowing note, did you know that tug-of-war used to be an Olympic sport?
To commemorate International Day of Sport for Development and Peace today (6 Apr) - a day to recognise the role that sport and physical activity play in communities and in people’s lives across the world - we take a closer look at the five new sports added to the Tokyo Olympics this year:
Aim of the game: Get the highest score through a mix of original tricks and difficulty of performing the tricks.
Skateboarding, along with surfing and sport climbing is something you’d normally see on the X Games years ago, but the IOC has added these sports into the Tokyo Olympics to get more young people interested in the games.
There will be two main categories for skateboarding at the Olympics, to be held at Tokyo’s Ariake Urban Sports Park. The first is "Street" with handrails, stairs, benches, and boxes like our very own skatepark at East Coast Xtreme Skatepark.
The other category is "Park", taking place in a hollowed-out bowl with steep curved inclines for skaters to reach insane heights.
🇸🇬 SG Represent: Veteran Singapore top skater Feroze Rahman (above) is a former 2011 Asian X Games champion, and represented us at the 2019 SEA Games. His brothers Farris and Firdaus are also top skaters.
Aim of the game: Surfers have 30 minutes to catch up to 25 waves, receiving a score of up to 10 per wave. Only the top two waves count for their actual score.
Surfing is the one sport that doesn’t have a fixed schedule – it all depends on the wave conditions at Tsurigasaki Beach, Chiba prefecture (100km away from Tokyo). The initial rounds are four and five person heats, with the main rounds being one-on-one competitions.
There is a five-point system that judges use to score surfers: Commitment and difficulty, innovation and progression, variety, combinations, speed, power, and flow.
🇸🇬 SG Represent: Arfian Abu, Michelle Ooi Siew May, Arthur Kor Kim Hock (above), Mohamad Nazir Salleh, Michael Lim Chee Siong, and Beckie Liu were part of the first Singapore surfing team that competed at the 2019 SEA Games.
3. SPORT CLIMBING
Aim of the game: Athletes compete to climb a wall with holds of various shapes and sizes.
Sport climbing will be hosted at the Aomi Urban Sports Venue, and it has three categories. In "Speed", climbers go one-on-one to see who’s the fastest to scale a 15m wall. In "Bouldering", they’ll need to climb a 4.5m wall with a number of fixed routes in a set time. In "Lead", the climbers race to traverse a 15m wall as high as possible within a set time.
🇸🇬 SG Represent: Jay Koh (above) has proudly represented Singapore four times at the International Federation of Sport Climbing World Cup and has won the silver medal at the 2011 Sea Games.
Men (67kg, -75kg, +75kg) and Women (-55kg, -61kg, +61kg)
Aim of the game: Score points in a solo demonstration (kata) or through sparring (kumite)
The birthplace of Karate is in Okinawa, so it makes perfect sense for the sport to make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics. The competition at the Nippon Budokan is divided into two.
In Kata, competitors are judged by their solo karate skills from among the 102 offensive and defensive movements recognised by the World Karate Federation.
Then there’s Kumite, one-on-one sparring where competitors must amass 8 points first or accumulate the higher points in 3 minutes, earning 1-3 points by landing blows at target areas.
🇸🇬 SG Represent: Cindy Seah (above) is one of the oldest female karate teachers in Singapore at the Shito-Ryu Singapore Karate-Do Kai. She won bronze at the 1991 SEA Games and was a silver medalist at the 1993 SEA Games in Kumite.
5. BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL
Aim of the game: Get the most runs (points); you get a run by hitting the ball with your bat and running across a sequence of four bases, ending back at the home plate you started.
Baseball is a top sport in Japan—ask any fan of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. Plus, their softball team is number one in the world, making it a great fit for both to make their return to the Olympic scene.
Two teams of nine players will switch up between batting and fielding, called an inning. Teams switch roles when the fielding team manages to get three opposing players out.
Baseball was an Olympic sport between Barcelona 1992 until Beijing 2008. Softball was introduced in Atlanta 1996, and was also played until Beijing 2008.
Can’t tell the difference between baseball and softball? Softball has a smaller playing area, and the distance between batter and pitcher is shorter. The ball is bigger, and the bat is 34 inches, compared to baseball’s 42 inches. The game ends within seven innings in softball compared to baseball’s nine innings.
🇸🇬 SG Represent: The Singapore men’s baseball team were runners-up at the WBSC Hong Kong International Baseball Open 2018, and 4th in the 2019 Philippines SEA Games. The men’s softball team won gold at the 2019 SEA Games. Both our men’s and women’s softball teams bagged a gold at the 2015 SEA Games (baseball and softball were not competed in the 2017 edition of the games).