Today marks a historic day for climbing after it was officially declared a new Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Climbing will now be added to the roster for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, and GB Climbing Team athletes will be gearing up to vie for the honour of representing Britain at this prestigious event.
This announcement is the much-anticipated culmination of a concerted campaign for Olympic inclusion headed by the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) and backed by a host of organisations, including the BMC and Mountaineering Scotland.
The IFSC said the declaration was the result of a “long, hard climb” to see it recognised.
While it’s a triumph for all involved, it’s not surprising that Sport Climbing (or competition climbing as it’s more usually known in the UK) has been accepted into the fold as an official Olympic sport since it perfectly embodies the Olympic motto ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ proposed by Pierre de Coubertin when the modern Olympics were first created in 1894.
Nick Colton, BMC Deputy Chief Officer, said: “Climbing also represents the only basic human movement not yet included in the Olympic Games; it brings the missing vertical dimension to the world’s most prestigious sporting event.”
And now, British climbers will form part of the 20 male and 20 female athletes from around the globe who will each need to compete in three specific disciplines of climbing: Lead, Speed and Bouldering. This creates a more unusual challenge for Team GB as our athletes often specialise in a certain discipline in order to excel in it.
But with years to prepare, we may even see BMC ambassador Shauna Coxsey, MBE – the reigning IFSC Boulder World Cup Champion – return to Lead Climbing and train up in Speed Climbing in order to represent Team GB in the Olympics.
Meanwhile, hot on Shauna’s heels are a huge number of exceptional climbers, junior and senior, who will all be eyeing up the chance to take part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Rob Adie, Climbing Walls and Competitions Officer at the BMC, is confident the British team will be well in contention for medals in four years’ time.
He said: “The GB junior climbers are incredibly dedicated team and are training hard and doing incredibly well in Europe at the moment with regular top 10 finishes from both the girls and boys in most age categories.
“These guys will be our future potential Olympians and it's great to see them doing so well at such a young age. We will be sending a very strong team to the World Championships in China in November so we have high hopes for some good results there, too.”
WATCH: Shauna cruise to the top at CWIF 2016 on BMC TV
Climbing was approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as part of a package of five sports, where all were selected for their key focus on youth, which is at the heart of the Games vision for Tokyo 2020.
The IFSC will now begin work on the technical aspects of the Olympic Climbing event. The selection process will be drafted and presented on March 17, 2017, at the IFSC Plenary Assembly in Quebec City, Canada.
The IFSC President Marco Scolaris said: “We are so happy that Sport Climbing will be participating in the Games of Tokyo.
“We have reached the final hold of our unbelievable climb, but another climb awaits us. Our team is committed to preparing Sport Climbing for the Olympic Games, and over the next four years we will continue to work with the IOC to do so.”
Read more: Climbing and the Olympics: Q&A
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GB Climbing is supported by the BMC, Mountaineering Scotland and Secur-it. Many UK walls also support the GB Climbing team through free or subsidised entry.