Bouldering, Speed To Join Climbing’s Bid For Olympics

Insidethegames reporting on a change to the sport of climbing’s bid to be part of the 2020 Olympic Games:

The original proposal included just lead climbing, which tests the endurance of athletes as they compete to see who can get highest.

However, both speed climbing and bouldering will now also be included if climbing secures a spot at the 2020 Olympics.

…snip…

This multi-discipline format will now be championed when the IFSC gives its presentation to the IOC Executive Board in St Petersburg at the end of May.

With what’s happened with wrestling it’s hard to be optimistic about climbing’s chances of making it into the 2020 games, but this news seems like it could only help.

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19 Responses to Bouldering, Speed To Join Climbing’s Bid For Olympics

  1. Carlos Lugo March 19, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Perfect. The Olypmics are meant to showcase a sport by hosting its world championship event once every four years. If the climbing world championship consists of lead bouldering and speed, why would you break that up just to get more exposure?

    This is good to hear.

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    • Dan March 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm #

      A lot of (most?) other sports have World Championships in addition to the Olympics.

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  2. Anon March 19, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I could be biased because I’m a boulderer, but I always thought bouldering would be entertaining for non climbers to watch. The climbs tend to be more gymnastic, which is more fun to watch that real technical climbing, and its shorter, so spectators don’t need to have long attention spans (although maybe that’s just the American in me speaking). Anyway, I’m excited that bouldering is in there. Speed…. well…..

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  3. pipo March 19, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    For me also bouldering competitions are the most exciting to watch, but my guess (and observation) is that for non-climbers bouldering is the least exciting. Without being able to grasp the difficulty of the movement and the how hard the holds might be, it will just look like some kind of ridiculous gymnastics show.
    Lead climbing will be spectacular for the non-climber because of the height of the climb and even more so because of the overhanging the wall. Speed might be interesting because of the obvious element of competition.
    I could be wrong, but non-climbers tend to be not overly impressed by seeing people bouldering unless it’s an obvious roof or overhang.

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  4. Anon March 19, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I would say look at the last two bouldering and sport climbing comps. The boulder comp had people dynoing, feet cutting, and big falls from the tops of problems. The sport climbing comp had static climbing and heel hooking, with lots of close ups that don’t really show the height of the climber (because it’s not really fun just watching a far away shot of a climber scaling a wall, we wanna see their face/holds/etc.). I would wager that people would enjoy the boulder comp more. But we should probably be doing some real world testing so we can get some definitive answers.

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  5. douglashunter March 19, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    Narc, I agree, if a sport like wrestling just got booted from the Olympics I can only wonder what climbing’s chances are as we have far fewer global participants. But who knows, maybe climbing is “New School” enough that it will appeal to the IOC. But man, if climbing does make it in. The US is going to be caught totally flat footed! We currently don’t have the institutional infrastructure, quality of coaching, or $$$ needed to field a deep team and prepare them properly.

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    • Aaron Schneider March 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      I think that’s an interesting point on the U.S team. In six more years what sort of climbers will we have? ABS Nationals 2013 was a step forward and could be evidence that in five or six years Mascernas and O’Rourke could be big-time on the competition scene if they stick with it, tho I admit that doesn’t answer the question of depth. The U.S. has basically no representation for sport climbing on the international competition stage, but I feel like in bouldering we could pull something together in that time, especially for the women. Speed climbing I know nothing about.

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  6. PBC March 19, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    How well its understood is going to be a function of how its sold. I think if you get someone charismatic and knowledgable about competition climbing, like an Emily Harrington or a Sean McColl, get them behind a stand with a Lauer/Gumble, and toss a few holds on the table it’ll drive the point home. Watching a news anchors sausage fingers fondle a microcrimp or struggle to pick a pinch up off the table will give the people at home some perspective. I think a lot of us have climbed in a gym enough that we can recognize certain holds (the Boss, Talons, Bubblewrap pinches) and imagine what its like even from a head on shot. Showing the walls from the side now and then will show exactly how close to vertical the usable edge of a sloper is, and just how little one of those nickel-thick crimps sticks out.

    Add in chiseled adults wearing what the beach volleyball folks do making similar power sounds and people will tune in.

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    • illsmosisyou March 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

      I remember hearing one of the most popular events during the last summer olympics was women’s beach volleyball. I think you’re onto something. Thought it’s obvious objectification of the athletes, it’s pretty honest to guess that people would be more tuned in if none of the guys wore shirts and the girls’ uniforms were a pair of small spandex shorts and sports bras.

      Seriously though, I think you’re right that it’s just too hard to convey how difficult this stuff is, but if you look at other sports (e.g. – curling, badminton, synchronized swimming, etc) I don’t think climbing is alone in that. We’ll just need to rely on the enthusiasts and climbers around the world.

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  7. Greg March 19, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    I actually think the general public, as well as the mainstream Olympic media would warm up to the presentation of Speed Climbing the most. It is the only discipline that is timed in real numbers which makes the performance of athletes easier to understand, no confusing rules and 6-way ties, and it is the only discipline where an athlete can set a WORLD RECORD, and the media loves that shit

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    • Narc March 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      This is, unfortunately, most likely true

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    • douglashunter March 19, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      We often say that speed climbing is more media friendly, but wasn’t is dropped from the X-Games? I think (hope) that how well climbing works in the media has more to do with how well it’s explained, and how well the segments are directed and edited. Think about baseball as a point of comparison, its really slow, and relies on a mountain of statistics. If people can get into baseball which has very little inherent drama, a good TV director should be able to make sport climbing or bouldering seem totally hair raising. We’ve not seen much well directed climbing media so we don’t yet have a good sense of its potential. But yea, the lack of easy quantification works against us for sure.

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  8. ronnance March 19, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    My two cents–I just don’t get the appeal of speed climbing. It lessens climbing’s most beautiful elements. I also worry about the effects of popularizing pulling on plastic. I realize climbers who compete on artificial routes and problems have pushed some physical boundaries, developed some methods, and likely increased the difficulties on real rock, but I struggle to understand the growing appeal. Sure, a climbing gym is great to have, but I hope it doesn’t lead to crowded crags, damaged environments, and access issues On the upside, maybe it will decrease traffic on real rock. Most every strand I’ve read on this topic is filled with ‘heck yeahs.’ I pretty much say, ‘huh, that’s kind of cool…I guess…maybe…maybe not.’ I think I prefer not to see a massive explosion in the popularity of climbing. Forgive my pissin’ on the parade; I just felt like adding those thoughts to the conversation.

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  9. PBC March 20, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    Speed climbing also has the advantage of taking the setters out of the equation. High quality setting can make or break a competition, and makes for a scoring nightmare. Examples on both sides – I want to say it was the Mammut nationals at Earth Treks Timonium. The top 6 or 7 women flashed all 4 problems, at which point they had a super final – Men’s #1, which Pucchio flashed. The men’s field had 4 people flash all 4 problems to go to a super final. Flip side – Dark Horse Stop #2 this year, as far as I can tell from the video, there were about 3 sends total. One of the men’s problems looked like nobody even made it off the start. Now, these are waaaaay smaller than the Olympics, sure, but sometimes setters over or under estimate the field. It’d be a disaster.

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  10. Colin March 20, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    I would rather see wrestling back in, and climbing stay out. It’s a damn shame that an original Olympic sport got bumped because of the never-ending hunt for ratings and advertising dollars.

    Climbing is doing just fine without the Olympics. What do they offer, anyway? The Olympics is just big business. The games generate billions of dollars in advertising revenue for NBC, and do nothing for the average Olympic athlete. Michael Phelps is the exception, not the rule. Most of the athletes are broke.

    Putting aside the issue of whether more exposure is good for climbing, I wonder how much exposure climbing would get in the Olympics anyway. Plenty of events are broadcast on some god-forsaken cable channel at 4 a.m. You’re all fooling yourselves if you think it’s getting a primetime spot on network TV. Not in the USA, at least. Maybe in Austria.

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    • greg March 20, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      I agree, Colin. And I don’t really see Climbing making the cut for that reason, if the shift in included sports is influenced heavily by sponsor and advertising dollars, Climbing has very little in proven draw power for those dollars anyways. It is only just recently we have started to have the World Cups and other select comps available to public viewing, so in that regard we don’t offer much over wrestling

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    • douglashunter March 20, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

      I agree, I don’t think that the olympics has a great deal to offer climbing. About the only gain I see is that Olympic sports tend to get attention from the sports science community that climbing is currently not getting much of. It could mean better research and understanding of the kinesiology and physiology of climbing. It might also help raise the level of coaching in the US, which right now is low enough to be putting many youth athletes at risk.

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  11. Josh March 20, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

    With wrestling out of the olympics, I honestly don’t think climbing has a good shot at making it in. If the IOC going to take out one of the most ancient and storied sports in olympic history, (originated in the first olympic games in 708BC) then I don’t see them adding a sport as logical as climbing unfortunately. Wrestlers are some of the most sportsmanlike athletes in the world today, and it’s a shame it was removed as an olympic sport.

    That aside, climbing could be great for the olympics if it is selected. Speed climbing would be the main media draw obviously, but if sport climbing and bouldering were presented with interesting enough camera angles (pinhole cameras to show relative size of holds, dynamic viewpoints, etc) and knowledgable commentators, they could be great for TV audiences. It would give kids a reason to start climbing and aspire to be up there on the world’s biggest stage.

    And really, the whole point of the olympics isn’t about sponsors, or money, or bikini models, but about showcasing the best athletes in the world at what they do and proving that sport defies all language and cultural boundaries. Isn’t that exactly what climbing embodies?

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  12. Nate March 21, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Climbing in the olympics? The connection with nature is such a big part of climbing. I mean I’m sure there’s many people out there that just pull plastic all day and are surrounded by the concrete jungle but when they escape I’m sure they can relate to what I’m talking about. There’s even organizations out there that many climbers support to protect this very thing and does anybody know what the Olympics do to places? I saw exactly what they do with Vancouver and I can honestly say that the Olympics does not stand for what a climber should stand for. Protecting our natural world!

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