Your Complete Guide To The 5 New Olympic Sports For Tokyo 2020 - Women's Health

Your Complete Guide To The 5 New Olympic Sports For Tokyo 2020

Skateboarding, surfing and plenty more will be making their official debut in 2021.

by | Jul 19, 2021


The Olympic Games are a sporting event steeped in history. Having taken place for over 100 years, the Games have undergone numerous changes both to their structure, schedule and the events themselves. While Tokyo 2020 will certainly be making history simply due to the context in which it is taking place – one where fans will be forced to watch the events from home and athletes will need to comply with strict social distancing rules and restrictions – it also marks the debut of five new Olympic sports included amongst the record 33 sports taking place. Totalling 339 medal events across 42 venues, it’s a huge leap from the Athens Olympics of 1896 when just 10 sports were on the program listing. 

If you’ve ever wondered just how a sport makes it way into Olympic contention, know that the process is one fraught with challenges and extended voting. According to the International Olympic Committee, a sport must be governed by the International Federation, must be practiced widely around the world, and meet other notable criteria. Pending the approval of the IOC session, a sport may then be recommended by the IOC Executive Board as an addition to the Games program. It’s also reported that host cities can propose new events, usually because they’re sports that are popular within their country, or that are youth focused. 

With this in mind, Tokyo 2020 is certainly shaping up to be an exciting, historic occasion. The new sports taking place include baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing, with a number of Australia’s top competitors set to make their debut on the Olympic stage. Read on to find out everything you need to know about the new additions and when the events will take place. 

Baseball and Softball

With baseball being immensely popular in Japan, it’s fitting that the sport should find itself on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic list after a 13-year hiatus. The sport was first introduced to the Olympics in 1992, but was later removed from the Games after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Softball was added as a medal event in 1996 and was won by the U.S., but it too was removed after Beijing in 2008. 

For any die-hard fans though, you’d do well to tune in as both sports are slated to be one-off additions, with neither currently scheduled to be a part of the 2024 Paris Olympics. Baseball will be men only, with softball being women only. Six countries will take part in both sports, which begin with an opening-round pool play before moving onto knockout stages to determine the winner. 

The baseball tournament begins July 27 through August 7. Softball will take place from July 24 through July 27. 


Having originated in Japan, karate will now be making its debut as an Olympic sport. Currently not slated for 2024 Paris Olympics program, it could be a one-off much like softball and baseball though. Still, it’s cause for celebration as the Tokyo Games will feature two karate disciplines: kata (form demonstrations, where athletes are judged on technique) and kumite (a mat competition where athletes compete head to head). 

The events will take place at the Nippon Budokan, which hosted the first World Karate Championships in 1970. The events are scheduled for August 4 through August 7. 


When it was announced skateboarding will make its Olympic debut, many were sceptical. Unsure how scoring would work and whether it could even be classified as an Olympic sport, the announcement was one that surely ruffled some feathers, but for the most part proves exciting as the once-considered sport performed on the outskirts now launches into the mainstream. 

Tokyo will feature two skateboard disciplines, park and street, which will have both prelims and finals. The park competitions will take place in a smooth, dome-shaped bowl, with competitors scored on originality and difficulty of tricks. Meanwhile, street competition mimics a skatepark, with stairs, rails and other features where athletes will have a set amount of time. Judges will score the runs across both disciplines. 

The skateboarding competition will take place from July 24 through to August 4. 

Sport climbing

After the international success of Free Solo, many couldn’t wait for the inclusion of sport climbing in the Olympics. Featured as a single event, the sport will see athletes compete across three primary disciplines: speed, bouldering and lead. From there, an overall winner for both men and women will be announced. Each climber will have to compete in every discipline, with athletes aiming for the lowest combined score to win medals. Climbers will also be kept in isolation before their turn, meaning they can’t gain an advantage by watching how their opponents approach the wall. 

Sport climbing will take place from August 3 through August 6.


Taking place at Tsurigasaki Beach in Ichinomiya, about 45 miles southeast of the Olympic stadium, surfing will feature both men’s and women’s events. There will be a preliminary round before head-to-head knockout competition, with athletes competing with a shortboard for greater manoeuvrability. Most importantly, given that surfing relies so heavily on the elements, the timing for the competition is flexible. It means that competitions can be postponed to a later day to ensure the most ideal conditions are utilised. 

The event will take place from July 24 through July 31 and naturally, all eyes will be on Aussie golden girls, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons as they make their Olympic debut in the event. 

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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