Sport climbing hopes to "grow together" with IOC in future bid for Olympic inclusion

Monday, 25 August 2014
By Paul Osborne at the Sports Lab in Nanjing

Sport Climbing is optimistic for its future inclusion in the Olympic Games ©Getty ImagesGrowing together was the overriding message from the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) here as the sport looks to the future for a berth on the Olympic programme.

Climbing is one of four sports on show at the Sports Lab, a new concept by the IOC that has allowed four sports to showcase themselves to the public and IOC, through demonstrations and public participation.

It was one of the eight sports competing for Olympic inclusion at Rio 2016 and, despite missing the three-strong shortlist, officials within the sport's governing body are still optimistic for future inclusion on the Olympic programme.

Speaking to insidethegames, Marco Maria Scolaris, President of the ISCF, claimed any member of the IOC just needs to "come down here and watch" in order to see the excitement and popularity of the sport.

He called for the IOC to "give us some guidelines and help us in how to develop the sport for the future".

He added: "Let's grow together"

"This sport is brand new.

"I think it will be interesting to build the future of this sport with the IOC.

"Because since it is brand new there has been the opportunity to change it or improve it in a direction or the avenue which we believe in, while for other sports it is more difficult."

Climbing is one of four demonstration sports being showcased at Sports Lab in Nanjing ©ITGClimbing is one of four demonstration sports being showcased at Sports Lab in Nanjing ©ITG



Debbie Gawrych, secretary general of the ISCF, has also been an ever-present figure at the Sports Lab over the past week.

"I think it's incredible because it shows the energy and family feel with have in our sport," she said.

"You can see the vertical dimension and it excites everyone.

"Everyone wants to come on and touch the holds and get on the wall.

"Our athletes realise that this is an exhibition and not just a competition so they get to just relax and get to show moves that they wouldn't normally get to do and it's just been a lot of fun"

While a great concept in itself, the principle aim for the four sports participating in the Sports Lab experiment is inclusion on the Olympic programme.

Gawrych believes, however, the concept could be incorporated more thoroughly into the Olympics with "new sports a multitude of sports, kind of like in the athletics where there's different things that you're watching.

"I think there may be some smart ideas to that."

Sport climbing has proved incredibly popular during the week or so it has been on display at the Sports Lab in Nanjing ©ITGSport climbing has proved incredibly popular during the week or so it has been on display at the Sports Lab in Nanjing ©ITG



Speaking specifically about sport climbing and what it could bring to the Olympics, Gawrych added: "There's nothing like this in the Olympics.

"It's a vertical dimension; it appeals to the youth and in the video game, fast-pace world, this is something that they do and it appeals to them.

"So that's what I would say, consider us because we add a different dimension."

A big draw for sport climbing gaining inclusion in the Olympic programme is, according to Scolaris, the credibility it will bring for the sport.

"Why would it be important to be in the Olympics?" he said.

"Of course for the economic and financial resources, but also because of the credibility [it would bring].

"In a continent like Africa for example, we talk to people, we have National Olympic Committees who say, 'Ah we would like do some climbing', but the reality is that if you go there and you're not Olympic then they are not as interested.

"So that's why in Africa at the minute we have activities and climbing walls in maybe 10 or 15 countries but only three federations.

"This [being in the Olympics] would completely change that situation and we believe that this sport would be practised a huge amount in Africa, maybe even more than in other continents.

"So this is also the other side of the model; it's not only the recognition of the athletes, the money, but it is also the credibility that you get for being an Olympic sport.

"So we cross our fingers and we hope."

Ice climbing is also bidding for inclusion on the Olympic programme, albeit the Winter Olympic programme, with the sport demonstrated during Sochi 2014 ©UIAAIce climbing is also bidding for inclusion on the Olympic programme, albeit the Winter Olympic programme, with the sport demonstrated during Sochi 2014 ©UIAA



Sport climbing is a former member of the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) but "were asked to leave for various reasons" in 2006.

The UIAA is also in the development stages of launching a bid to be included in the Winter Olympic programme, with the chief executive of Lillehammer 2016, Tomas Holmestad, naming it as one of several sports that could potentially see similar involvement at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, as that of sport climbing here in Nanjing.

Despite a few "frictions" between the two governing bodies, Scolaris claimed this would prove not to be detrimental to sport climbing's bid for inclusion in the summer Olympic Games.

A final point made by Scolaris was the IOC's mentality towards the Olympic programme.

He claimed that thinking about a seven-year period in terms of a new sport being added to the Olympic Games is something that should be changed by the IOC because "a sport that is popular now, in seven years could be forgotten".

"They [the IOC] need to catch it when it's popular.

"With the new [IOC] President [Thomas Bach] there is some new inspiration and motivation.

"So we will be waiting for December for the extraordinary session and see what is decided.

"We had many IOC members here and they were really happy watching the youth climbing and doing the other sport.

"I think a new wind is blowing and I hope it stays this way."

Contact the writer of this story at paul.osborne@insidethegames.biz


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