TOKYO • Japanese officials reacted with cautious optimism yesterday after Olympic chiefs supported their proposal to add skateboarding and four other sports to the Tokyo 2020 Games programme on Wednesday.
All that remains is for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to rubber stamp the inclusion of skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate plus the joint baseball/softball bid at its Session in Rio de Janeiro in August.
"Skateboarding is hugely popular with young people across Japan and has global appeal," Japan Roller Sports Federation (JRSF) secretary Masako Matsumoto said. "The sport's inclusion would raise interest in the Olympics among young people."
If accepted by the IOC, terms such as "disco flip", "roastbeef grab" and "mongo-foot" could become part of the modern Olympic vernacular.
The five sports would add 18 medals and 474 athletes to the Olympic programme in Tokyo, without affecting existing sports, according to the IOC.
The IOC Executive Board voted unanimously in favour of the proposal put forward by Tokyo 2020.
ZOOMING INTO HEARTS AND MINDS
The sport's inclusion would raise interest in the Olympics among young people.
MASAKO MATSUMOTO, the Japan Roller Sports Federation secretary, on the benefits of having skateboarding at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
IOC vice-president John Coates told reporters: "This is a very good proposal. It has a good balance between sports popular in Japan and those better engaging youth like surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing."
Under new rules, Olympic host cities are allowed to hand-pick sports they want in the Games to join the existing 28 core sports. They can bring in sports popular in their countries to boost ratings and attract greater sponsorship as well as a younger generation of fans.
Skateboarding and surfing, in particular, have legions of trendy fans across Japan, dedicated not only to the sport but the lifestyle and fashion as well.
The International Surfing Association (ISA) said it was "thrilled" to be on the verge of becoming an Olympic sport. "This is a wonderful moment for our sport and for the global surfing family," ISA president, Fernando Aguerre, said.
World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari added: "It is an honour for our global sport... to be represented within this new and innovative youth-focused Olympic sports package."
Skateboarding will have two street and two park events with 40 competitors each (20 male, 20 female), IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.
Karate will have two events (one men's, one women's) for kata and three weight classes for kumite. Sport climbing will feature men's and women's competitions for bouldering, lead and speed combined.
The five sports hoping to join Tokyo 2020 had been whittled down from an initial list of 26 hopefuls.
Games chief Yoshiro Mori said potential venues for all five sports had already been identified and presented to the IOC. Organisers would also present progress reports during the IOC session in Rio.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS