Sport Climbing Makes Shortlist for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Could competition climbing finally become an Olympic sport?

By Rock and Ice | September 28th, 2015

Peter Dixon (USA) snarling up Semi-Final problem three at the 2015 IFSC Bouldering World Cup in Vail, Colorado. Photo: Liz Haas.Could competition climbing finally become an Olympic sport? It’s pretty close. Today, the Additional Event Program Panel for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics announced that sport climbing has made the shortlist—along with surfing, karate, baseball/softball, and skateboarding. These are the final five sports that have a chance at being included in the 2020 Olympic games.

“It is a great honor to have been chosen,” says Marco Scolaris, president of the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC). “Of course, there is still a long way to go, and all of us at the IFSC are deeply committed to meeting the challenges ahead.”

Competition “sport climbing”—which includes bouldering, lead and speed climbing disciplines—made the cut from an earlier list of eight. Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee chose the sports and narrowed the list to five. The International Olympic Committee now has the final say.

According to the British Mountaineering Council’s Competitions Officer Rob Adie, in an interview with, “It’s up to the IOC to decide on which sports will be admitted to the games in 2020—fitting them into their 310 event and 10,500 athlete limits as set out in their ‘Agenda 2020’.

“[Three hundred six] medals (as of Rio 2016) are already allocated so theoretically that only leaves room for four more medals—i.e. two more sports (male and female in each) or four events from a single sport—unless the IOC decide to up the number of events at 2020.”

Bouldering, Lead or Speed?

The IFSC proposed that climbers compete in all three disciplines—bouldering, lead and speed—for a combined score and a chance at taking home the gold medal.* 

In a poll conducted by (with 4,000 unique votes), 32-percent—the highest—voted that they would like to see bouldering in the next Olympics. Behind bouldering, with 21-percent popularity, was the combined three of lead, bouldering and speed. Lead climbing alone came in third, with 15-percent of votes, and deep water soloing held up the rear with 6-percent.

Twenty-five-percent voted that climbing should not be in the Olympics at all.

The Next Step

The final decision will be made at the 129th IOC Session in Rio, Brazil in August of 2016. Stay tuned.


Cover photo: Claire Buhrfeind (USA) on women’s problem two in Semi-Finals at the 2015 IFSC Bouldering World Cup in Vail. Photo: Liz Haas.


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