Last year, the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested that baseball/softball, squash, and wrestling be proposed to the 125th IOC Session for possible inclusion as an additional sport on the Olympic program for the 2020 Olympic Games that will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Among the other candidates on the shortlist for inclusion included karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding, and wushu. Personally, I believe that sport climbing should have been chosen to be included in the 2020 Olympics. The Commission uses 39 criteria in determining a sport’s suitability for the Olympic Games, including youth appeal, universality, popularity, good governance, respect for athletes, and respect for the Olympic values.
Sport climbing has become increasingly popular and has inspired amateurs to take up climbing at local indoor climbing gyms. According to the International Federation of Sport Climbing, nearly 3,000 people climb for the first time every day and more than 25 million people climb regularly. The sport has a huge, single-minded fan base around the world; last year’s world championships in Arco, Italy, drew athletes from 60 countries and thousands of fans. The increasing popularity of indoor rock climbing gyms is indicative of its attractiveness. Youth are attracted to the excitement and thrill that climbing offers, unlike other sports that do not pose as much risk, and most climbers, around 39 percent, are under 18. The youth appeal of climbing is also reflected in the increased appearance of rock walls in college recreation centers around the country. West Chester University’s climbing wall was recently installed and already has a faithful group of regulars, as well as promotes an exciting alternative to traditional exercise.
Furthermore, an Olympic sport requires good governance, something rock climbing already possesses. The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is the international governing body for the sport of competitive climbing. It has 81 member nations around the world with over 1,630 licensed athletes in 2012. Apart from this body, individual countries have their own entities that oversee competitive climbing such as USA Climbing in the United States and Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing in Greece. Rock Climbing is a universally appealing sport because climbing is a primary human movement and is culturally unbiased. Climbing can be done anywhere, whether at an indoor climbing gym or while scaling a mountain. It is an accessible and all-inclusive sport without discrimination, which is why it so appealing all around the world.
Competitive climbing also respects the values and principles of the Olympics. One value shared is that of sustainability and preserving the environment. On the official Olympics web page, the IOC revels in the fact that they are committed to sustainable development and ensure that the Olympic Games follow their green initiatives accordingly. Rock climbers are some of the most active towards the promotion of protecting the environment. Ever since climbers realized the damage they have done to rock in the earlier years of outdoor rock climbing, there has been a movement to preserve the natural rock at all costs. Many climbers are environmentally conscious and practice low impact climbing. Another characteristic of climbing that the IOC is forgetting about is that men and women are treated and represented equally in the sport, reflecting the modern society we live in. The IOC supports fuller participation of women in Olympic sports as well. For example, 660 of the 1,630 IFSC member athletes are female, and the share of female climbers in the climbing community is roughly 38 percent. As a female climber myself, I know that while the sport is still dominated by males, inclusion and support for female climbers is incredible.
Not only is there respect for Olympic values, but there is respect for the athletes themselves. Unlike many other sports, high importance is placed on the health and safety of sport climbers. The IFSC fully supports anti-doping policies, participating in-and-out of competition testing, complying with both IOC, and WADA guidelines. One of the main goals behind these practices is maintaining the integrity of the athletes and sports as well as supporting the idea that the climbers are role models and doping would steal the spirit of the sport, which showcases the natural ability of the athletes.
All of the facts and figures prove that not only does sport climbing meet the requirements to become an Olympic sport, but it is actually a perfect fit for inclusion into the Games. Despite all of this, seeing climbers compete in one of the most celebrated sporting events in the world would be really cool. Climbing competitions are extremely exciting to watch and seeing athletes perform with so much passion is inspiring. I believe that the increased media attention to the sport would create a whole generation of young and active climbers. Rock climbing teaches youth all about hard work as well as teaching them that an active lifestyle can actually be really fun. The IOC should reconsider their decision to snub rock climbing. Competitive climbing athletes deserve a chance to showcase their passion and I’d rather watch climbing than curling.
Marisa Claggett is a first-year student majoring in political science studies and minoring in Arabic. She can be reached at MC808919@wcupa.edu.