How new sports could be added to the Olympic Games for Tokyo 2020

Update June 22, 2015: The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has shortlisted eight sports for inclusion, and will make a final decision on what to propose to the IOC in Sept. 2015. is sharing ideas of what Olympic sport might be for upcoming Games. We are calling this series: Future Games.

One very interesting change stands out from a long list of approved recommendations during last December’s IOC Session in Monaco.

40 recommendations for the Olympic movement were unanimously approved including number 10, which spelled out how new sports could be added to the Olympic Games.

Karate is one of the sports hoping to be included in the Olympic programme.

Karate is one of the sports hoping to be included in the Olympic programme. Photo: Karate competition at the 2014 Asian Games.

The reco. makes two key points with a few nuances. First, the Olympic Games (summer) will be capped at 10,500 athletes, 5,000 coaches and support staff plus 310 events. For the Olympic Winter Games the numbers are 2,900 athletes, 2,000 coaches and support staff, and 100 events.

Ok, the numbers 310 in summer and 100 in winter are important for this paradigm shift: “Move from a sport-based to an event-based programme” which means the number of sports can change so long as the event amount stays fixed.


Excerpt from the IOC’s ‘Olympic Agenda 2020’

Onto the nuances. In the past a group like the IOC Executive Board would suggest new sports, and the IOC Session would vote. (The session is a big meeting where all National Olympic Committees are repped). Rugby sevens and golf were added to Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 this way in 2009.

While the decision part is still the same, the IOC is now allowing the organizing committees of future Olympic Games to propose ‘one or more additional events’. You can basically take ‘events’ to mean either events in existing sports, or events in new sports.

The organizing committee for Tokyo 2020 already have a group working on their proposal called the ‘Additional Event Programme Panel’, and this is where it gets a little tricky:

Could Tokyo 2020 propose to remove an event (or sport)?

Nope, according to the IOC an organizing committee can’t remove anything, (which makes sense).

If an organizing committee adds an event would it stay for future Games?

Also no says the IOC, the sport or event would take place for that Games only and would not be automatically added for the next edition.

What sports are being considered?

Oh, good question. At the moment it seems the best shot to get into Tokyo 2020 is through their Panel. There are a lot of reports surrounding baseball and softball, considering its popularity in Japan.

History lesson: Wrestling was the last sport added (well re-added is more accurate) to the Olympic Games for 2020 and 2024. That happened in September 2013, and with 49 votes wrestling beat out baseball/softball which garnered 24. Squash received 22 votes.

Chances are the sports submitting proposals back in 2013 are still keen, it just depends on their level of organization this time around. The 2013 list included of course baseball/softball and squash plus karate, rollersports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu according to this IOC report. (All except sport climbing and wushu will be at this summer’s Pan American Games in Toronto)

Remember even if the organizing committee is game, the IOC Session would still have to approve changes, and they work according to these guidelines as taken from a 2009 release, “The key factors in determining a sport’s suitability for the Olympic programme include youth appeal, universality, popularity, good governance, respect for athletes and respect for the Olympic values.” Also: IOC Vice President John Coates touched on new sports in this AP article, including this comment, “Universality and gender equality are key in selecting new sports or events but the IOC will also consider an up and coming sport that is gaining in popularity especially with youth.”

There are still a lot of details to be worked out, something the IOC Executive Board will tackle during meetings later this month and in April. Olympic Agenda 2020 as a whole is a big undertaking, remember this entire post is on one of forty changes. It is still unclear if the Executive Board would also make a sport/event proposal alongside an organizing committee. It stands to logic the IOC Session would accept most reasonable proposals from Tokyo 2020, including baseball/softball which was pulled from the Games after 2008.

The decision on new sports for Tokyo 2020 will happen in August 2016, right before the Rio Games.