Which Sports Might Make it to the Olympics – and What Can Sports Construction Expect?

Getting to the podium has nothing on this kind of competition. Eight sports are now vying for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics, to be held in Tokyo. That’s the short-list, now that the Japanese organizers spent time hearing from all the sports that were in contention. (We’ll tell you who they were in a minute.)

The IOC will make a final decision on which sport or sports will be added in August 2016, when it meets ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In the past, the number of sports has been limited, and some sports had to be dropped in order to add others. However, under the “Olympic Agenda 2020” reforms, the IOC agreed to abolish the cap of 28 sports for the Summer Games and move to an “events-based” system that would allow new competitions to come in, while keeping to about 10,500 athletes and 310 medal events.

Host cities are allowed to propose the inclusion of one or more additional events for their games – which is why the presentations on behalf of those sports were made in Japan, to organizers of the Games in Tokyo. The organizers, then, reviewed all the proposals, made its choices and will be passing them on to the IOC.

The sports that applied but didn’t make the cut were: air sports, American football, bowls, bridge, chess, dance sport, floorball, flying disc, korfball, netball, orienteering, polo, racquetball, sumo, tug of war, underwater sports, waterski and wakeboard.

Go ahead and Google anything you don’t recognize, by the way.

Here’s a recap of the finalists the IOC will be considering, in alphabetical order. And let’s just think for a moment about what it could mean for sports facility construction if one or more (or all – hey, no sense in not thinking big-picture) are granted their chance at the podium.  Because as everyone knows, there’s nothing like putting a sport on the world’s biggest stage to make it grow.

Baseball and softball were dropped following the 2008 Beijing Games but have been lobbying for reacceptance ever since. If included – well, they’re sports that already have multiple facilities throughout the U.S.

Bowling is also in the mix. Bowling alleys aren’t multi-purpose when it comes to sports, so construction of new facilities would be a boon.

Karate is also pressing its suit. Although karate has failed to win Olympic inclusion three times before – for the Beijing, London and Rio Games – the chances are stronger this time. (In fact, the Tokyo city government unanimously adopted a resolution in November calling for the inclusion of karate and the combined bid for baseball and softball.) As far as facilities go, karate been accommodated in a variety of settings, from gymnasiums to ballrooms to dojos.

Roller sports has multiple disciplines include roller hockey, roller figure skating, skateboarding, speed skating and roller derby. A variety of facilities could be necessary here, depending upon which disciplines would be offered as podium sports.

Sport Climbing is also up for consideration. Sport climbing can be accommodated outdoors (in the rock climbing setting most people have heard about) as well as indoors (such as in gyms with climbing walls or in climbing fitness facilities). And the latter facilities stand to get lots of business – and good growth – if climbing shows up on the world stage.

Squash was considered the favorite for the 2016 cycle – until, that is, the IOC’s idiotic game of turning wrestling into a political football for a few months. But wrestling is back in, and squash is back on the table. Squash has worldwide popularity. Heightened visibility in the Olympics could lead to more players and subsequently, more courts.

Surfing would like to be a podium sport as well. In terms of facilities, it’s hard to implement anywhere but outdoors, so its potential impact on the sports facility construction industry is likely to be negligible.

Wushu, the traditional Chinese sport that is based on martial arts, has been lobbying for inclusion for several Olympic cycles. Like karate, it is a sport that has been practiced in a variety of settings, such as indoor multi-purpose facilities.

Most people have picked their favorites, and are rooting for them to be included in the 2020 lineup. There are plenty of reasons to believe certain sports are better contenders than others. But the IOC tends to look favorably upon several things at this point:

  • Sports with facilities that are easy to build and can be placed in a variety of settings. No city wants to incur any more debt than it has to when it comes to hosting the Olympics
  • Sports that are popular on a worldwide basis and are not completely dominated by only a few nations
  • Sports that attract younger spectators and viewers. In fact, the addition of slopestyle skiing and snowboarding to the most recent winter Olympics, according to IOC president Jacques Rogge, was an effort to bring in an edgier, younger vibe to the Games so that they did not look stale or stuffy.

The IOC will let us know next summer. Until then, count on plenty of lobbying on the part of every sport.

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