World first symposium for new Olympic sports to be held at University of Waikato

By David Leggat

A world first symposium designed to help prepare the new Olympic sports coming into the programme in Tokyo in 2020 will be held at the University of Waikato this month. Photo / supplied.
A world first symposium designed to help prepare the new Olympic sports coming into the programme in Tokyo in 2020 will be held at the University of Waikato this month. Photo / supplied.

A world first symposium designed to help prepare the new Olympic sports coming into the programme in Tokyo in 2020 will be held at the University of Waikato this month.

The meeting on September 21, organised by Waikato university sociologists Holly Thorpe and Belinda Wheaton, has International Olympic Committee funding and could be the forerunner of similar gatherings around the world as the Games prepares to welcome first timers skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing, karate and one returnee, baseball/softball.

The idea is to give the sports an idea of what to expect once they come under the substantial umbrella of the IOC.

It is a given that within the so-called action sports there are factions who are fully supportive of the move; others who worry at how their sport, and the free-spiritness of them will be affected.

Thorpe and Wheaton, who undertook research for the IOC ahead of the inclusion of, particularly, surfing, skateboarding and sport climbing, picked up the vibes of friction within those sports.

"There's no question that for each sport there are factions within them," Wheaton said.
"There's a core of mostly men, aged 25 to 50 plus who probably all say this is a sellout of our sport, particularly in surfing and skateboarding.

"Our survey (as part of their IOC work) found skateboarding the most popular sport and young skateboarders really embraced it (going into the Olympics). The under 18s hang on to less of that counter cultural, alternative view of their sports. They've grown up with X Games and athletes having reality TV programmes.

"Everyone, including the IOC are completely aware these clashes exist and it would be a complete mistake to think they're going to disappear. We are going to see those tensions played out for sure."

Thorpe pointed out the IOC sports and the Olympic Games have "enormous" rulebooks.

"These sports aren't necessarily used to that, and one recommendation which came out (when the sports were included at an IOC meeting in Rio) was for the IOC to support them through the process."

Thge pair are lining up representatives of each new Olympic sport, plus others who have come into the Winter Olympic programme relatively recently, such as snow boarding, and others like BMX, windsurfing and mountain biking who fit the action sports grouping.
Both women believe the IOC are aware they need to modernise the Games.

"The IOC may not understand them (the new sports) as fully as they could, but they certainly understand much better than they did four or five years ago," said Wheaton.
"This is definitely a new phase in the way they are approaching things and they do need to change the way they operate."

Wheaton said there are no guarantees that the five new sports will retain their places for 2024.

"There is some confusion within federations who have been fighting hard to get their sports into the Olympics and they don't know whether they will be in beyond 2020.

Every sport is going to have to fight for their place because there's going to be a huge assessment done after every Game to see which sports are working in terms of audience numbers."

The symposium is aimed at providing some answers for the Olympic newbies.

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