WKF President Antonio Espinós was among those in attendance at the meeting with Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

Paris 2024 has stated it will not be reconsidering its proposal for new sports on the programme of the Olympic Games in five years' time after holding a meeting with leading figures from karate, which was controversially excluded.

World Karate Federation (WKF) President Antonio Espinós held talks with Paris 2024 following their announcement last month that they had not been chosen as one of their optional sports.

Espinós was accompanied by Francis Didier, President of the French Karate Federation (FFK), and Toshihisa Nagura, secretary general of the WKF.

Their aim was to convince Paris 2024 to agree to karate being a fifth additional sport, joining breakdancing, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing - pending final approval from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

But their efforts, for now at least, have proved to be unsuccessful with Paris 2024 explaining that "there were no new elements provided by the WKF that would imply reconsidering the proposal made to the IOC".

"Paris 2024 understands the disappointment of all Federations that were not selected by Paris 2024 and will always keep an open door to continue working with them for the promotion of their sport," the Organising Committee added in a statement.

Paris 2024 was represented at the meeting by President Tony Estanguet, general director Étienne Thobois, director of sports Jean-Philippe Gatien and the deputy director of sports Aurelie Merle.

It said it answered promptly and positively to the WKF's request for a meeting as it was "deemed very important for us to engage with the Federation following the announcement on the new sports".

Paris 2024 also stated it reiterated the key principles chosen regarding the choice of the additional sports, including sustainable and socially responsible Games in line with Olympic Agenda 2020 and the IOC's New Norm, through sports that can be enjoyed by a limited number of athletes and do not require permanent facilities.

Another was Games that are "in keeping with the times" and inspire new audiences and attract young people, through sports that allow for engagement on social media, that are both a means of expression and a way of life, and which can be played anywhere and anytime in urban and other environments.

Also referred to was Games that reflect the identity of Paris 2024, through spectacular sports that are culturally relevant, engaging, accessible, inclusive, and which can be played outside conventional arenas and inspire creativity.

"Paris 2024 advised that the responsibility for the additional sports only concerns 12 events out of the 320 as part of the OIympic programme," the statement adds.

"Paris 2024 therefore proposed a coherent, spectacular, urban and youth-oriented package that offers a complementary experience to the one offered by the sports programme."

Among those representing Paris 2024 at the meeting was President Tony Estanguet ©Getty Images
Among those representing Paris 2024 at the meeting was President Tony Estanguet ©Getty Images

Karate is due to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo next year but, despite meeting all the criteria according to the Organising Committee, was not chosen by Paris 2024. 

They chose instead sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing - all part of the Tokyo 2020 programme - along with, controversially, breakdancing.

The decision still needs to be ratified by the IOC, which is due to discuss the proposal before it goes in front of its Executive Board between March 26 and 28.

Provisional approval could then be granted at the IOC Session in Lausanne in June, before Executive Board confirmation in December 2020.

The WKF is refusing to give up, though, and has launched a high-profile digital campaign to try to convince Paris 2024 to add them to the programme.

The #Karate2024 campaign aims to "showcase the unity of the sport and requests the inclusion of the discipline in the list of additional sports to be added to the programme of the Olympic Games Paris 2024".

Fans have been encouraged to get involved by using the hashtag and spreading the message "KARATE: Olympic sport".

Despite the outcome of the meeting, Espinós said it allows the WKF to now start with its actions "henceforth".

He also vowed that the governing body will not by lying down easily.

"We have come to Paris with the goal of requesting the COJO (the Paris 2024 Organising Committee), to reconsider its position on its decision to propose only four additional disciplines to the Paris 2024 Games," Espinós said.

"As President of the World Karate Federation, with Toshihisa Nagura and Francis Didier, I have come to defend our great family of karatekas, our athletes of today and our hopes for tomorrow.

"We have proposed the inclusion of karate as the fifth additional sport; unfortunately, we have not received any response from our interlocutors, except to mention that the total number of athletes cannot be exceeded in the Games, an argument which does not correspond at all with our request.

"In no case we were told that their original proposal should be limited to four sports; so there seems to be no express instruction from the IOC in this regard.

"Additionally, we have requested the COJO to guarantee the total transparency of its decision, so that we can have clear and objective arguments of how the selection of sports has been made.

"In the end, we have left the interview without any valid criteria or reason to justify their decision.

"Therefore, we will give ourselves a few days of analyse the situation, during which we will consult experts, and we will launch an action plan with a single objective: the inclusion of karate in Paris 2024.

"We will study all the possibilities and we will not exclude any option.

"We will use all the resources at our reach to fulfill our objective.

"We have defended our family and our athletes firmly and from this perspective, we are satisfied with the meeting, as it allows us now to start with our actions henceforth.

"One thing is certain: we will not give up."

The decision to exclude karate was considered a surprise as it was believed that the sports would have offered France the opportunity to win more medals at Paris 2024.

"The position of the FFK is to do our utmost, together with the WKF, so that karate can be present at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024," Didier said.

"The proposal made by the COJO represents a lack of respect for all our athletes, it represents a lack of respect for our family of fans… it's just common sense.

"How can we tell our athletes that they will not be in Paris in 2024 even before they can demonstrate their values in Tokyo 2020?

"I urge you to explain this to Steven Da Costa, our world champion, to Gwendoline Philippe and Alizée Agier, both 'Grand Winners 2018', and to all our hopeful competitors who will not be able to represent their discipline in Paris in front of their audience; these athletes will not be able to represent their sport even before having the opportunity to enjoy their first Olympic dream in Tokyo.

"Let's put ourselves in their place.

"The way in which this decision is made goes against common sense and that is why we are going to go to the end of this situation.

"The athletes feel humiliated.

"I encourage athletes of all Olympic disciplines to put themselves in the shoes of our young karatekas.

"How would they react?

"How would their national federation react?"

The only country more successful at the World Championships than France is Japan.

In the 24 editions of the event, France have won a total of 167 medals, including 55 gold.

At last year's World Championships in Madrid, France finished third on the overall medal table with two gold, coming behind only Japan and Iran.

"We have also discussed with the representatives of COJO their strategy regarding the medals and the performance by the French athletes at the Olympic Games at home," Didier added.

"In this sense, it is worth remembering the great level of tricolour karate at the international stage.

"We are an important provider of medals for France since historically we are the first nation in Europe and the second in the world.

"They made it clear to us that this is not a viable argument.

"Therefore, according to the explanations that we have received at the meeting, we understand that winning medals for our country is no longer a priority objective for the COJO.

"In theory, all they want are urban disciplines.

"If this had been a criterion that had been made public from the beginning, we would have adapted ourselves, and we would not have spared in proposing solutions, like putting tatamis under the Eiffel Tower, that would be possible."