How All The Weird, Wild New Sports Of The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Will Actually Work

12 February 2020
Sports, Olympics, Tokyo 2020, 3x3 Basketball, Skateboard, Karate, Surfing
From skating, to surfing, to speed climbing

Tokyo 2020 is almost certainly going to go down as the Olympics where the old guard finally got to grips with modern sporting culture. Already we're seeing signs that it's going to be one of the most progressive games ever, with eSports events being planned around the event to compliment it, but when the games officially kick off, we're set to see a host of new sports take centre stage, many of which have recently hit new peaks in global popularity.

For many of these sports, however, the act of making them Olympic ready has meant changes have had to be implemented, bringing increased structure to certain sports that, to the eyes of outsiders at least, don't seem to have any.

Read More: The Olympics Are Set To Transform Japan

So how will they all work? We thought we'd break them down for you.


It's likely that Tokyo 2020 will be the only time in which we'll be able to see Japanese martial art Karate performed as an Olympic event, so it makes sense to watch it while you can.

Thankfully, it's pretty straightforward, with Karate set to take the form of two distinct disciplines. Firstly, there's 'Kumite', which is essentially combat Karate, and the form of the martial art that you can probably imagine taking place. Medals in Kumite will be contested over a number of weight classes, with fighters scoring points for landing blows and throws. And if you're wondering whether or not an actual Karate fight is a cool thing to watch, yes it is.

The other form of Karate on display will be Kata, which is essentially to martial arts what Rhythmic Gymnastics is to, well, actual gymnastics. Here' competitors are given the floor to perform their most gravity defying moves, comprising of flips, kicks, spins and punches, which will be judged on form by a series of experts. Think of it as extremely fancy, extremely technical shadow boxing.


Perhaps the most head-turning addition to the Olympic rotor is, of course, Skateboarding — a sport that for decades has been seen as a beacon of counter-culture.

But now that the sport is heavily commercialised and pro skaters are younger, better and more athletic than ever before, the IOC has finally seen fit to honour a sport that speaks to millions around the world.

Read More: How Skateboarding Will Work At The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

In order to ensure national diversity throughout the skating events, only 3 skaters from each country will be able to qualify to take part in each event, and they won't be selected by their individual teams to do so. Instead, they'll have to qualify to represent their country by competing for qualification points at sanctioned World Skate Events around the world.

This means that roughly 10-12 countries will be able to field a team in each event, rather than Olympic Skateboarding simply being dominated by the sport's major players. Two medal events each for men and women will be held across the 2020 Olympics: Park, in which skaters score points based on a 45-second runs in a skate park, and Street, in which competitors are judged off two runs of five tricks each.

Sport Climbing

The explosion in popularity around climbing might only seem fairly recent in the wake of Alex Honnold and the release of Free Solo, but Climbing's ascent to Olympic status has been a long time coming. This is mostly because two distinct disciplines within the sport have opened up, both of which will be represented at Tokyo: Speed Climbing, Lead Climbing and Bouldering.

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All three forms of climbing will take place within closed indoor gym environments, but instead of countries being represented by specialists in each form of climbing, Sport Climbing will actually operate as something of a multi-stage event, with the total scores of each climber tallied from their performances in each discipline. First up will be speed climbing, which uses a standardised wall up which the climbers need to ascend as quickly as possible.

Second will come bouldering, where climbers need to complete as many 'problems', or short routes up a 4m wall, as possible within a given time. Finally, they'll come to lead climbing, where a very, very tough 12m wall will be presented to each climber. Whoever gets the highest up the wall in six minutes wins, and while that may seem like a long time compared to the walls you normally scale at the gym, the difficulty of the routes likely to be on offer means it'll be anything but.

Whoever performs the best on average over all three categories will take home the gold.


If you've ever watched a WSL event, you'll know pretty much off the bat how this is going to work, as it'll operate in almost exactly the same way as any straightforward surf competition you've ever seen. There are no extra disciplines for aerial specialists or anything like that, just two days (of a possible 16 day window) of the best surfers from each country competing. Interestingly, the tournament won't take place in the controlled conditions of any of Japan's famous wave pools. Chita's Shidashita Beach, or "Shida" as it's known colloquially, will be the setting.

Read More: The Surf Is Just One Reason You Should Go To Turkey This Year

3x3 Basketball

Streetball just got real. The high-flying-yet-still-quite-tactical game of small-side, small-court basketball is set to arrive in Tokyo as a new spin on the game, with entirely different players and, perhaps, less domination from Team USA as a result. If you've seen the BIG3 championships in the U.S., you'll know what you're in for, but the run-down is pretty simple.

It's essentially half-court basketball, played with a slightly modified ball at a far higher pace than normal ball. Expect live music and a pumping atmosphere as a result, with a high-possibility of dunks.

Via GQ Australia