Now that the International Olympic Committee has approved, baseball, softball, surfing, skateboarding and rock climbing for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, what do some of the key figures think?
“The decision will add 18 events and 474 athletes across the five sports. All but baseball and softball will have equal numbers of men and women. Those sports will have the same number of teams but fewer female athletes as softball teams have 15 players and baseball teams have 24.”
There are some big concerns though. IOC members fear the absence of the best baseball players as the Games — which run from July 24 to Aug. 9 will interrupt the Major League Baseball season.
The decision still drew praise from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
“We are excited about the IOC’s announcement restoring Baseball and Softball to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo…. We are grateful to the IOC Executive Board, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the World Baseball Softball Confederation for their collective efforts, which will allow fans throughout the world to again enjoy Baseball and Softball on the Olympic stage.”
MLB owners and the players’ association will need to cut games from their 162-game schedule to accommodate players competing in the Olympics. “We have some time before the actual games and we would work very hard so that the best athletes can participate in the sport of baseball”, said Yoshiro Mori, president of Tokyo 2020.
As we always suspected, the IOC has focused on events meant to draw younger viewers, adding BMX riding in Beijing. Snowboarding has become one of its most popular winter sports since adding that in 1998.
IOC President Thomas Bach says:
“We want to take sport to the youth. With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them."
Surfing certainly fits the model.
John John Florence, one of the world's top surfers, said in a statement:
“I’m just excited for the opportunity to represent my country on the global stage in Japan at such a historic event.”
Three-time world champion, Carissa Moore echoed his sentiments:
We spend a lot of time traveling the globe and competing against the very best surfers from around the world on the World Surf League’s Championship Tour, so I don’t think it will change the competition format too much. It’s a great way to elevate the sport I love and share it with people from all around the world.”
Some action sport athletes have always had reservations about Olympic inclusion, concerned about the absence of freedom and creativity. This from Olympic Snowboard Slopestyle gold medalist:
Well Surfing/Skateboarding welcome to the Olympics. #DontLetThemControlYourTour— sage kotsenburg(@sagekotsenburg) August 3, 2016
The Fédération Internationale de Roller Sports (FIRS) was behind skateboarding's bid, along with the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF) and International Skateboarding Federation (ISF).
Initially, the IOC had proposed that a commission representing the three groups, as well as the skaters, run the prospective contests. However, it was announced that Olympic skateboarding will operate under the oversight of the Tokyo 2020 Skateboarding Commission, consisting of chairman Gary Ream, president of the ISF; Simone Masserini, executive director of the FIRS; and Neal Hendrix, pro skater and ISF athlete representative.
The Olympic events will include men's and women's park and street events, with a total of 80 skaters competing in each discipline. Those specializing only in vert or big air will miss out, which is unfortunate.
Luckily for skateboarding fans everywhere, multiple X Games medalist, Tom Schaar, has years of competition ahead. He remains humble.
"I'm stoked. And have a lot of hard work ahead to be included.
The addition of the new sports will not affect athlete or quota spots. It also won’t necessarily apply to future Olympics, meaning some or all of the sports could be one-off events.
The only downside to all this? Some of today's best and most accomplished athletes will no longer be competing by 2020.