This looks like being a breakthrough year for the Olympic movement, with more investment in sports away from the mainstream.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel for extreme athletes hoping to get their chance on sport’s biggest stage.
We’ve already seen the Winter Olympics move into the more radical snow sports and the summer Games have taken on the mad dash of BMX cycle racing.
Now skateboarding, climbing, roller sports and the martial art of wushu are on the programme for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games which are being held in Nanjiing in China in August.
All the traditional sports will be on show but it’s great to see sports that reflect the interest of the “now generation” getting a foothold, albeit at youth level and even though they will have only demonstration status.
Essentially, these sports are on trial in China. If they are well received, there’s the chance they could go on to be included in the actual Olympics.
Sport climbing, roller sports and wushu all put their hands up to be on the programme at the Tokyo 2020 summer Games. But they were knocked out of the selection race early. By the time the voting reached the IOC’s final meeting, wrestling made a return to the Olympic stage at the expense of other finalists squash and softball/baseball.
Getting exposure to the massive Chinese market will be huge for skateboarding and climbing in particular, as well as the opportunity to be exposed to a truly global audience that comes with anything under the Olympics spotlight.
New IOC president Thomas Bach seems to be on a mission to modernise the Games. He is keen for new sports to get a chance, just as he is keen for more sports to be added to the full Olympics programme, possibly with some late additions to the Japan Games, and he wants to see costs brought down.
Bach speaks frequently of engaging with youth and encouraging sports participation among young people to “get the couch potatoes off the couch”.
This second edition of the Youth Games will be central to his vision moving the IOC forward.
That’s great news for those of us in the extreme sports categories. The IOC will no doubt have taken a long, hard look at the increasing presence and success of events like the X-Games which push athletes and their sports to the limits.
They can’t turn a blind eye to the reality that these are the sorts of sport that are spinning people’s wheels now.
Key in a few words on Facebook and you’ll find the topic “skateboarding” attracts 15,777,653 likes – considerably more than the topic “wrestling” with 2,221,042 likes, or even “track and field”, the Olympic’s glamour topic with 4,490,256 likes.
Australian sport climbing boss Rob LeBreton hailed the development.
“Climbing by its very nature appeals to young people,” he said.
“Sport Climbing has experienced massive expansion first in Europe, then North America and now in Asia
“The Youth Olympics is an obvious great starting point for sport climbing’s association with the Olympic movement.
“The prestige that goes with competing in an Olympic Games, along with the chance to be part of the biggest sporting event on the planet would spur climbers on to new heights – literally.”