By Tom Degun

karate 3December 10 - Karate's bid for a place on the programme at the 2020 Olympic Games has been given a major boost after the sport signed a Letter of Intention (LOI) with the European Olympic Committees (EOC) to appear at the inaugural European Games in Baku in 2015.

Karate is now likely to be confirmed as one of only two non-Olympic sports when the full programme is finalised next March following the decision by the EOC in Rome last week to stage a European Games.

The other non-Olympic sport at the European Games is set to be dancesport, as revealed exclusively by insidethegames.

In the short-term, karate look set to gain the biggest advantage by being included in the European Games as they are currently one of seven bids that have been shortlisted for the 2020 Olympic Games sports programme alongside climbing, roller sport, squash, wakeboard, wushu and baseball and softball, who are making a joint bid.

World Karate Federation (WKF) President Antonio Espinós claimed that the latest development bodes well for the sport's 2020 bid as it highlights karate's growing appeal.

Antonio Espinós 2WKF President Antonio Espinós has signed a Letter of Intention for karate to appear at the inaugural European Games in Baku in 2015

"I was in attendance EOC General Assembly where I spoke with Pat Hickey [the EOC President] about karate participating at the European Games," Espinós told insidethegames.

"I have now signed a Letter of Intention on behalf of the WKF for karate's participation at the European Games.

"Certainly this move helps in our bid to join the Olympic programme in 2020 because it shows that we are an internationally respected sport and a discipline that can work well in a multi-sport event.

"So this is definitely very positive for us and now our intention is to keep pushing to help the sport of karate grow internationally."

Karate's imminent securing of a spot at the 2015 European Games comes after the 2012 World Championships in Paris last month were declared "the best ever" by Espinós.

The event in the French capital saw sell-out crowds of 16,000 pack into the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy which was vitally important for the WKF given that the Championships were being observed by International Olympic Committee (IOC) as part of karate's 2020 bid evaluation.

The IOC will review all the bids in Lausanne on December 19 but a final decision on which bid will make the 2020 Olympics before will not be decided until the IOC Session in Buenos Aires in September 2013.

Meanwhile a total of 13 sports have already been confirmed for the European Games, which are expected to take place in June in 2015 before they are then stage every four years.

They are archery, badminton, boxing, canoeing, fencing, handball, judo, rugby sevens, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon and volleyball.

The EOC has confirmed that negotiations are on-going to secure the inclusion of swimming, gymnastics, wrestling and athletics with karate and dancesport set to complete the sports programme.

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