Why These New Sports Belong in the Tokyo Olympics

3 minute read

Olympic organizers have put forward their shortlist of five additional sports to be included in the 2020 Games in Tokyo: baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. (Sorry bowling, squash, and wushu, the three sports which didn’t make this final cut). Next August, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a final decision on which sports make the 2020 program. Each sport’s popularity in Japan will factor into the final call. That’s all well and good, but as Olympic spectators, which ones make the most sense? Here’s TIME’s ranking of potential Olympic additions, from favorite to a sport better off in the mall.

  • Surfing. The waves! The wipeouts! The telegenic beach views! Surfing is a sport with an established history, and it deserves a spot in the Olympics. If the IOC is going to pick just one new sport, surfing should get the nod. Plus, the post-race interviews will be totally gnarly.
  • Baseball/Softball. Baseball is holding softball down. If it bid alone, softball would get our top spot: the sport’s elimination from the Olympic program was a travesty, a lost opportunity for a growing women’s game to stay in the spotlight. But its packaging with baseball hurts. The Olympic baseball tournament has never featured the world’s best players, since it falls right in the middle of the Major League Baseball season. Although the NHL interrupts its season for the Winter Olympics, don’t expect MLB to do the same. If an Olympic sport does not feature its best during the actual Olympics, why should it be in the Games in the first place?
  • Karate. The sport’s a natural fit for an Olympics in Japan. We’d put it higher, but worry a bit about redundancy: the Olympics already have two martial arts sports, judo and taekwondo, and several other combat events like wrestling, boxing, even fencing.
  • Skateboarding. The Olympics are perpetually trying to connect with the youth demo: skateboarding fits that box. But there are already plenty of X-Games events on the summer and winter Olympic programs: BMX cycling, snowboarding, aerial skiing, etc. The skateboarders already eat up plenty of park space. Don’t think they need to crowd the Olympic space too.
  • Sport Climbing. This sport’s governing body says that 140 countries have climbing walls, and 40% of the world’s 35 million climbers are under the age of 20. But come on, an Olympic sport? American Ninja Warrior is popular enough already: let’s keep climbing in the entertainment division.
  • There’s a chance that the IOC, usually a stickler for adding new events, could add all five sports to the Tokyo program. That’d be just fine. We’d hate to deny anyone an Olympic opportunity. Skater dude who almost always crashes into me: go for the gold.

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    Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com