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What Do the Olympics Five New Sports Mean to Planners?

15 Jun, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

With the recent announcement that the IOC’s executive board had announced the five new sports to be hosted at Tokyo during the 2020 Summer Games, the sports business world was put on notice regarding a few trends that might affect the industry. And with those five sports finalized (but still to be voted on by the IOC membership during the Olympics in Rio this August, although this is looked upon as merely a formality since all five sports will be voted upon as one unit), it’s time to consider each sport and what its inclusion could mean for future sports events:

Baseball and softball: Both are already popular in the U.S.; what may be interesting is whether the inclusion of both sports boosts enrollment in travel teams (as more parents seek more chances for their children to be noticed by scouts.)

Another interesting note to sports business is the fact that MLB previously stated it would not allow its players to leave the season to participate in the Olympics. Talks are in the works about the 2020 Games; however, should MLB not loosen the reins on its teams, the USA’s baseball players may be coming from sectors such as USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, or even the 18U National Team.

Karate: The inclusion of karate will certainly mean more visibility for the sport and thus, the growth of more programs, according to the USA Karate-do Federation. It may also mean more cities with indoor facilities checking the sport’s rules to learn about what it takes to host competitions, and more business for sports commissions who want to bring larger events to town. Updates of facilities could also be in the works.

Sport Climbing: While traditional rock climbing takes place outdoors, count on more rock gyms to spring up, and more health clubs to add climbing walls to their facilities, feeding into the economic impact of competitive events. USA Climbing is the governing body here, and lists disciplines including bouldering, collegiate, sport and speed climbing, as well as adaptive climbing (which may be a new Paralympic discipline.)

Skateboarding: While USA Roller Sports is the national governing body of all things related to skating in the U.S., expect plenty of input here from the International Association of Skateboard Companies, Skate Park Association International and others. In fact skateboarding, with its counter-culture vibe, is one of those sports that everyone thought might not make the Olympics, simply because there were so many disparate organizations vying for control of the lobby. The International Roller Sports Federation's (FIRS) took the lead in working toward the sport’s inclusion; however, two other bodies, the International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) and the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF), expressed their interest in being involved as well. With four years to go, there appears to be plenty of time to work out a compromise on the governance of the sport. In the meantime, expect the number of competitive events – either sanctioned or unsanctioned – to see an uptick as publicity ramps up.

Surfing: It’s the definitive American sport. While areas like Huntingdon Beach, California, already host the U.S. Open of Surfing, and are indelibly linked with the sport, expect other coastal areas to increase their events. (Other related sports that stand to experience an ancillary bounce include windsurfing, wakeboarding, skimboarding and kiteboarding.) And just as with ski resorts, which have begun putting in attractions for non-skiers, expect potential surf towns to work on tourism for families of surfers as well. Heck, even Royal Caribbean International is putting in onboard surf simulators for its cruise ship passengers to try out.

With much of the sports world’s attention focused on the Summer 2016 Olympics (and on the location choice for the 2024 Games), not as much focus has landed on the five new sports in 2020. But once the flame is extinguished in Rio, count on all the above sports to start working the spin cycle to gain new participation – and on cities to start parlaying that interest into hosting their events.

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