While surfing, climbing, skateboarding, as well as breakdance will be the new additional sports of the Paris Olympics, in 2024, karate will not appear. “The door is effectively closed for karate”, confirms the sports director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Kit McConnell, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), arguing the need to maintain a ” balance “ between traditional disciplines and those in full growth.
In recent days, the French gold medalist Steven Da Costa and the deputy minister responsible for sports Roxana Maracineanu had pleaded for combat sport to be reinstated in the program of the Paris-2024 Games, after its appearance for a single competition during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The discipline allocation process “Was done transparently” and even ended before the Tokyo Olympics. “The goal is to give everyone certainties as soon as possible, so no change has been possible since last year” concerning Paris, assures Kit McConnell. The IOC ensures that it understands the frustration of karate enthusiasts, expressed by Steven Da Costa, the first Olympic champion in history in -67 kg: “I have to help my sport and fight for something that I think is right”, he told AFP on Thursday.
“We are completely moving away from the values of the Olympic Games”
But the mass seems to have been said since February 2019, when the organizers of the Paris Games proposed four new sports, but not karate. “At the end of this process [de sélection], four additional sports, breaking, climbing, skateboarding and surfing, were selected in February 2019 by Paris-2024 for proposal to the IOC ”, confirmed the organizers in a statement Thursday.
Sports described as “Young, accessible and connected with their time”, in accordance with the words of Tony Estanguet, president of the organizing committee of the Olympic Games, which underlined Monday, on Franceinfo, the desire to highlight sports “Which are successful on social networks”.
“These are excuses that annoy me a little”, indignant Steven Da Costa.
“We are completely moving away from the values of the Olympic Games, we are talking about money, audience, we are no longer talking about sport, so I understand the decision even less. “
“Attract a young audience”
For his part, Mr. McConnell rejects the argument of financial income: “If the considerations were purely financial, we would choose sports capable of filling stadiums with 80,000 seats”, he advances before noting that “Some traditional sports, such as athletics, gymnastics or swimming still make very good television figures”. On the other hand, he assumes the IOC’s desire to “Seduce a younger audience”:
“The four sports chosen for the Olympics-2024 bring real balance to the Olympic program. In Tokyo, team sports and combat sports in particular were well represented, but more urban sports brought a very different dynamic compared to traditional sports. “
The addition of breakdance to the Olympics-2024 contributes to this same momentum in favor of more urban sports, which aims to reach a young audience. While it is difficult to measure the enthusiasm for skateboarding, rock climbing, surfing, 3×3 basketball and karate, their addition was a success, he said.
“We had the support of the practitioners [des nouveaux sports] and Tony Hawk [un célèbre skater américain] also defended entry to the Skateboard Games. “ Besides the “Popularity”, other criteria are taken into account in the selection of sports, including their character “Universal”, “Athlete engagement”, or even ” World’s Championships “ dedicated to them.
A possible return soon
Another factor usually taken into account: the host country’s medal potential in additional sports, which could have played in favor of maintaining karate beyond the Tokyo Games.
But for Mr. McConnell, “The question goes far beyond the success of the host country of the Olympic Games, and winning a gold medal does not guarantee the presence of sport in the next edition”. However, nothing says that karate will not be able, later, to consider its return through a selection process that is repeated during each Olympiad.