Just as the Rio games are set to begin, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced the addition of five new sports for the 2020 Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo, Japan. In a unique and clearly youth-centric move, the IOC has added skateboarding, rock climbing, karate and surfing to the retinue of Olympic sports, and reintroduced baseball/softball after more than two decades.

The vote, which took place on Wednesday, was the conclusion of a process that began in 2014, with the approval of IOC’s strategic roadmap. The strategic roadmap is aimed to give the organizing committees more liberty to choose the sports for their respective Summer Games. Following suit, the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee submitted its proposal for the inclusion of these sports, in September last year.

Talking about this announcement, former prime minister of Japan and current president of the Tokyo organising committee Yoshiro Mori said, “The inclusion of the package of new sports will afford young athletes the chance of a lifetime to realise their dreams of competing in the Olympic Games—the world’s greatest sporting stage—and inspire them to achieve their best, both in sport and in life."

The inclusion of these sports will not affect event quotas for existing sports, and is not binding for future games. As stated on the Olympic website, the factors that the Olympic committee took into account before deciding on these sports were the effects they would have on “gender equality, the youth appeal of the sports and the legacy value of adding them to the Tokyo Games".

These sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes to the quadrennial sports spectacle, taking the total number to 33 sports and 11,000 athletes, up from the usual 28 sports and 10,500 sportspersons.

The response to this decision has been mixed. While the inclusion of sports like baseball/softball, sport climbing and karate have been met with considerable excitement, much ambivalence—and hostility—has emerged as a response to adding skateboarding and surfing to the Summer Games.

Simply put, young surfers and skateboarders across the world think the Olympics aren’t cool enough to feature skateboarding and surfing. An online petition addressed to IOC president Thomas Bach stated, “Skateboarding is not a ‘sport’ and we do not want skateboarding exploited and transformed to fit into the Olympic Program. We feel that Olympic involvement will change the face of skateboarding and its individuality and freedoms forever." The petition has received nearly 7,000 of the expected 10,000 signatures. On the other hand, famous skateboarders Shaun White and Tony Hawk have publicly agreed with the decision.

Surfers are divided as well. Speaking to Reuters, Australian professional surfer Owen Wright said that surfing shouldn’t be in the Olympics since it is “more of an art form and an expression". The anti-establishment nature of surfing and skateboarding is probably the reason behind both the organizing committee’s desire to include the sports (to rope in youngsters) and the disdain this decision has received from many.

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