ABOUT KARATE IN THE OLYMPIC GAMES
eventskarate 02 maggio 2016
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Meeting the Changing Trends of Youth
David Miller examines five proposed additional sports for 2020
If the IOC has a role as guardian of the changing ambitions of sporting youth, it should take note of what were allegedly the three most popular events among Under-30s of the inaugural European Games at Baku last summer: 3-man basketball, beach football and trampoline. None on the Olympic Programme!
The tide of youth activity must not be ignored, and the IOC recognised this when opening the way during the Agenda 2020 Extraordinary Session in December 2014, for discretionary addition of sports at Tokyo’s Summer Games of 2020. A preliminary selection had been narrowed to five by a Tokyo committee, the final recommendation from the Executive Board’s meeting in June to put to the session prior to Rio’s Games.
The five sports are, or were, Baseball/Softball, Indoor Climbing, Karate, Skateboarding and Surfing. However, uncertainty about Skateboarding, lacking a recognised International Federation registering affiliated national federations, has excluded for the time being the possibility for this truly global activity that infests the sidewalks of almost every city or village across five continents.
The question remains whether the Executive Board will now accept all four contenders, which is Tokyo’s wish – their organising committee willing to meet the cost, never mind economy cuts elsewhere. Ireland’s EB member Patrick Hickey reflects:
“Following the aspirations widely expressed at Agenda 2020, we have a responsibility to adapt any Games to the hosting city’s profile”.
It can be guessed that this opinion will be uniform across the EB, and therefore that Baseball/Softball will receive automatic approval, baseball being a national sport. But the other three?
The EB is known not to be unanimous for blanket acceptance: if four new sports are admitted, will all survive for future Games, or will there be a rash of innovative Olympic champions never to be seen again?
Consider Karate. Here would be a fourth combat sport, alongside Boxing, Judo and Taekwondo: moreover, one which has more than one IF, though the one recognised by the IOC being World Karate Federation, its leaders criticised by some for not seeking a unified global body.
WKF was formed in 1990, boasting 10 (!) million participants in 130 (!) countries, whereas the International Traditional Karate Federation (founded 1977), has 60 national federations across five continents. Karate emerged out of Japanese judo in the fifties; and evolved through a European Union, the Federation of All-Japan Karate Organisation, a World Union of Karate Organisation, and ultimately the WKF.
A further complexity of karate is that it has four distinct styles, thereby necessitating escalation of separate gold medals. Does the IOC want this? Because President Thomas Bach, strongly backed by Australian John Coates, initiated the innovation, augmented by a change in the Charter, I expect the EB will concede to the principle.
Both Indoor Climbing and Surfing would seem safe bets for inclusion: climbing facilities are cheaply accessible in almost any village hall, whilst surfing has been transformed by technology that makes uniform wave height and speed available in the middle of the Sahara: dramatic, televisual, athletic, challenging.
In the wake of Tokyo ’20, there is likely to be intense competition for places on the programme, especially under the policy of the Olympics becoming event-based rather than sport-based: larger sports sacrificing some events to accommodate additional athletes within the 10,500 limit. This challenge will even arise in 2017 post-Rio. Korea’s Spiritual Philosophy in Taekwondo Should Karate have featured in Tokyo, there could be some debate concerning the continuation of Taekwondo and two comparable sports. I hope not. Smartly, the World Taekwondo Federation has just announced added visual appeal for the Rio Games, with colour-coded national apparel. This is a clever development by the sport which, though global, particularly represents the very soul of Korean sport.
Indeed, its spiritual status within Korean culture enhances and even extends beyond the ideology within De Coubertin’s Olympic recreation of humanitarian and peaceful competition.
Prior to recently attending Pyeongchang’s inaugural Downhill event, in preparation for the Winter Games of 2018, I was invited to Taekwondowon – Korea’s spectacular national training centre, a $200m complex for physical, theoretical and psychological conditioning of mind and body, set in glorious countryside at Muju, at the foot of Mt. Baekunsan. For Korea, Taekwondo is not so much a sport as a way of life. In the presented list of training programmes at this extravagant mecca, the tenth and last is perhaps the most significant; “Mind control; career planning; leadership; reconciliation techniques; thought training; human rights education; violence prevention; addiction rehabilitation; healing”.
Of the various courses available, that for education stipulates: “Designed for practitioners around the world to understand the spirit, philosophy, history and techniques of the Korean martial art, as well as strengthen competence in both the study and practice of the sport to nurture leadership skills.” If this might seem heavily authoritarian, it is only by visiting this mecca that one begins to understand the depth of this cultural activity. The facilities, including an exclusive competition stadium, are exceptional, with a museum, a sculpture park, ancient oriental architecture, the whole spread out across Muju’s compact nine valleys almost the size of New York’s Central Park.
The WTF was inaugurated in 1973. At the IOC Session in Moscow, 1980, the status of WTF was recognised in preference to an alternative existing federation. In 1994, Taekwondo was accepted for Sydney’s Games of 2000, with 102 athletes in eight weight categories. The survival of this new sport underwent challenge, but held its place for inclusion in Rio. As with Wrestling, which experienced a recent crisis of identity, Taekwondo faces the same demands, but in my opinion and that of many, the ethical elements of the sport are so identical to the ancient creed of the Olympics that its survival is paramount.