Exclusive: Karate vows to keep trying to get in Olympics despite frustration with process

Wednesday, 23 October 2013
By Duncan Mackay at Constantine Palace in St Petersburg

Karate has vowed to keep trying until it wins a place on the Olympic programmeOctober 23 - Karate has vowed not to give up on its dream of joining the Olympic programme despite its failure to even get on the shortlist for 2020 following a controversial process which cost the sport €400,000 (£340,000/$553,000). 

Wrestling won the vote at the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Session in Buenos Aires last month having originally been nominated for exclusion after Rio 2016 by the ruling Executive Board.

They came out in top after a vote of the full IOC membership which pitched them against baseball-softball and squash after karate had been eliminated by the Executive Board at its meeting here in May.

The decision was a bitter blow to Antonio Espinos, President of the World Karate Federation (WKF), as it was the sport's third consecutive failure.

In 2005, after baseball and softball had been dropped, karate and squash had both narrowly failed to secure the two-thirds majority necessary at the IOC Session in Singapore to be included on the programme for London 2012.

Then, at the 2009 IOC Session in Copenhagen, karate had been beaten by golf and rugby sevens, who had been nominated for Rio 2016 by the Executive Board.

Antonio Espinos (centre), President of the World Karate Federation, is disappointed that the IOC will not compensate sports whose campaigns to win a place on the Olympic programme are unsuccessfulAntonio Espinos (centre), President of the World Karate Federation, is disappointed that the IOC will not compensate sports whose campaigns to win a place on the Olympic programme are unsuccessful

Bidding for a new sport for the 2024 Olympics is expected to be opened in two years, when karate will launch another campaign.

"We will try again because everybody perceives the Olympics is the pinnacle of achievement," Espinos told insidethegames here during the SportAccord World Combat Games, where karate has been one of 15 sports taking part.

"It brings so many benefits to the sport and its development.

"For karate and it's social values to be in the Olympic Games would speed up these social benefits so much.

"We cannot give up on this objective.

"At the same time we think we deserve to be an Olympic sport."

Espinos' optimism is boosted by the appointment of Thomas Bach as new President of the IOC, who is believed to be more open to the idea of expanding the number of sports able to join the Olympic programme. 

"I have big hopes that he will understand that the IOC has to change the rules for the process," said Espinos.

"I think he's in favour as far as I can understand from his declarations.

"This would open the possibility of other sports becoming an Olympic sport."

Espinos had written to former IOC President Jacques Rogge following karate's unsuccessful attempt to win a place on the Rio 2016 programme asking if they could receive some compensation for their efforts.

"It's such a costly process and we don't get any incentive from the IOC," he said.

"I remember four years ago for the election of 2009 I wrote a letter to the IOC President and I very kindly asked him if the federation candidates who did not succeed at the end to be part of the programme should have a stipendiary from to compensate the huge economical effort."

Karate has been a popular attraction at the SportAccord World Combat Games in St PetersburgKarate has been a popular attraction at the SportAccord World Combat Games in St Petersburg

Espinos revealed that the WKF spent €400,000 (£340,000/$553,000) on its campaign for 2020 - a modest sum compared to some of its rivals, but nevertheless a major investment for a sport which does not enjoy the benefits of Olympic funding even though, with 187 members, it is one of the biggest sports not to be part of the Games.

"The money you spend from your budget on the [Olympic] candidature you have to limit your development programmes, for example," he told insidethegames.

"You can't spend as much on your development on the years you are undergoing the Olympic process.

"This is really a pity that you have to slow down your development activities because of the Olympic candidature.

"It's a contradiction.

"I think the IOC should have been more sensitive on this issue."

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz

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