Mainstream and social climbing media are blowing up with the news that Sport Climbing is up for consideration to be included once again in the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris 2024. To be sure, this is exciting, and for more than one reason. Here are three important implications of this breaking news.

(1) The future is bright for the sport
It was not clear before this announcement that Sport Climbing would be in the Olympics beyond Tokyo. While its inclusion in the 2020 Games is momentous, it was also only provisional, in the sense that the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) supported climbing in the Tokyo Games but it was not added as a permanent event to the Olympics. Therefore, the next committee (Paris and beyond) also had to advocate for inclusion or it could have been a one-time thing. However now, in light of the Paris proposal, the future for climbing as an Olympic sport looks much firmer.

(2) Combined format, no more?
One of the most contentious issues regarding Sport Climbing’s inclusion in the 2020 Olympics is that medals will be vied for in only one category that combines the three distinct disciplines of the IFSC: speed, lead (difficulty) and bouldering.

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I kinda agree when people tell me speed climbing has nothing to do with ’real climbing‘. And it sure is my least favourite discipline and I’ll never touch this route ever again, once the Olympics are over (or even earlier if I don’t qualify 😅) That being said, I accepted the challenge to push my personal best (and the German record 😜) in the limited time i have left and expected it to be rather joyless and boring.. But the past two days I had the honour to be coached by @danyil_boldyrev who generously shared his knowledge with me and pointed out all the mistakes I still make 🙆🏻‍♂️ . Getting a glimpse into the world of a speed World Champion was really motivating and all the new input makes me look forward to the hours I’ll put into something I thought I would never enjoy 🙏 @mammut_swiss1862 @madrockclimbing 📷 @sytsevanslooten

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By and large, the climbing community has been overwhelmingly critical of the combined event. Athletes have been vocal of the struggle to train (in some cases completely new) disciplines outside of their specialities. To that point, one of the strongest female boulderers in the world, American Alex Puccio, decided not to embark on the #ClimbToTokyo at all in light of the combined event.

Alex Puccio, Canmore Bouldering WC, 2011. Photo by Migüel Jetté

The good news is that, if accepted, the Paris Olympics would see the combined Sport Climbing event split into two: lead and bouldering (still combined), and speed climbing. This is the obvious split to begin with and one that will undoubtedly please most athletes.

The logical next step is to divide even further, so medals are awarded in each of the three disciplines. Surely this model, which mirrors the current divisions of the international competition circuit, is the ultimate goal and will open the door for more climbing Olympians.

(3) The IFSC played their cards right
Despite the criticisms of the combined format, this announcement can be seen as validation for the IFSC’s controversial decision to go ahead with the combined event in Tokyo. Arguably, that decision helped climbing get a foot in the Olympic door, paving the way for the Paris announcement. Without the compromise of the combined format, climbing might not ever have been included in the jam packed Olympic calendar.

“We are grateful for the proposal’s recognition of the value of Sport Climbing and the work the IFSC has
done. We are proud to be part of this process and we look forward to the next steps in the following months,”
says Marco Scolaris, President of the IFSC.

To be sure, this is a preliminary proposal and there are hurdles to get over before we can officially celebrate Paris 2024. Nevertheless, things appear to moving in the right direction and this is undoubtedly an exciting development for competition climbing.

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