Rock Climbing gets cut from the Olympics

Ed’s Note:  This article featured on Climb ZA in 2008.  In this article Guy makes some a strong case for why climbing should have been selected as an Olympic Sport 🙂

Is climbing just another stupid sport?

Climbing debuted as a demonstration sport at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Whilst we all find the idea of competition climbing pretty straightforward, what do you think the average sports fan think?  Let’s first have a look at some the established events that uphold the Olympics ideals of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.


Jimbo Smith climbing at the Rockmaster 2011. Photo by Margherita Introna

Water events

Swimming freestyle over various distances is ok – it is simply trying to swim as fast as possible.  Backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly are merely contrivances to make people swim slower.  If these events remain, then we need to introduce jumping with both feet tied together, skipping and running backwards over each of the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 3000, 5000, 10000 & marathon distances.  Clearly this is absurd – and if you agree, then so are backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly.

Fighting & warfare

Archery, fencing & shooting
Playing with swords, guns and bows & arrows is for children.

If you must have boxing, then have proper boxing and not this watered-down version where 2nd grade fighters wear helmets.  That’s like allowing rowers to use a small outboard motor because they find rowing tiring.  Also the idea of weight divisions is absurd – why not have height divisions for basketball or body fat divisions for the marathon?

It seems strange that Judo is the only martial art in the Olympics?  If this is in, then why not include Karate, Kung Foo and all 8713 other Martial Arts?

This is the most popular event at the Hairy-back Gay Olympics – do we really need it here?

Ball & similar sports

Baseball, Basketball, Softball
These silly parochial sports could be moved to the USA Games and nobody would notice.

Beach volleyball
Let’s be honest – this would be laughed off as a joke if the athletes wore clothing.  Why not go the whole hog and do it naked.  Actually, almost all sports would be more popular if the athletes were naked (except shot put, hammer throw, javelin, weight lifting etc)

Football has a World Cup that is bigger than the Olympics – why does it need to be here as well? Not only are the Olympics less important to footballers, but at the Olympics they only have players under 23 years old (ie not the best players).  Why not have age divisions for all sports?  I think the under 11 hammer throw will be quite fun.

Table tennis
If you allow ping pong then you have to consider snooker and darts. Do you know that you can buy purpose made table tennis shoes?


Do you know that BMX racing is in? Surely people stop riding these when they are 10. As for pursuit racing on the track – why not scrap the first 99 laps where they go round at 2km/h and just have one lap of proper racing?

No Olympic rock climbing sign

Animal events

Why only horses?  Why not camels, elephants, ostriches etc?

Physical events

Track and field
Mostly good, but never forget the triple jump and steeple chase. If these events were invented today, the inventor would be ridiculed. One could make up a million similarly contrived sports. Why not have pole vault with a hurdle and puddle half way down the run up?

Ok, except for the weight division nonsense. If they keep this, then I look forward to climbing in the heavyweight division and not having to compete against Dave Graham, Steve McClure, Adam Ondra and co!

So what about climbing?

I suspect that people will quickly notice that there are no world records to beat (or worse, they’ll insist on records and climbing will be reduced to a race up a ladder (faster) or a dyno competition (higher)).  They’ll notice that routes can be set to suit specific athletes (ie the whole thing can be rigged).  They’ll find the technical decisions, which have recently plagued some international competitions, incomprehensible.  Basically, they’ll think it is pretty odd – which means that it is an ideal Olympic sport.

20 Responses to Rock Climbing gets cut from the Olympics

  1. Warren G Jun 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    To be honest I think the IOC was wasting everyone’s time by going through the process of promising to eliminate one sport, only to make it wrestling. I can’t see them dropping wrestling for anything, much less a sport like squash or climbing. I agree with many sentiments above, they should be removing contrived variations and remaining true to themselves. it did do climbing a great deal of good though, but I can’t see climbing getting in there for a long while.

  2. Ghaznavid Jun 5, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

    Its quite simple – Ernest Hemingway said there are only 3 true sports, motor racing, bull fighting and rock climbing – the rest are mere games.

    Quite simply – these are the Olympic games, its not a sports event…

    Ps. don’t mock archery and other ancient warfare techniques. These are things that shaped the economic and political landscape of the planet for thousands of years – until what I call “chicken warfare” began around 1900 – tanks, planes, long range missiles etc is cheating…

  3. Ebert Jun 6, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    Stop complaining, its only 4 years then we try again, anyways, South Africa doesnt have a climbing gym large enough to train people to be world class, would not be awesome going to the Olympics only to come last.


  4. Warren G Jun 6, 2013 at 11:21 am #

    Disagree: I would enter the Olympics to come last: that would mean I qualified, which puts me at an international level. Plus you then get to hang around a group of the fittest people on the planet- do you know how many condoms the Olympic village goes through?

    The best RSA swimmers don’t train in RSA, there is no reason why we couldn’t do the same with our best climbers.

    If nations only entered the Olympics on events they thought they might win at there would be far fewer nations at the games. Plus this isn’t about us, its about climbing.

  5. Chris F Jun 6, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    Quite agree. Do all the sprinters not bother turning up because they know they’ve got no chance of winning agains Bolt? I would love to take part for the experience even if I know I’ve got no chance of winning.

  6. riki Jun 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    @warren. “do you know how many condoms the Olympic village goes through?”

    do you have stats on that ?

  7. Ghaznavid Jun 6, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

    I almost had the potential opportunity to play Go (an ancient board game played at the Olympics) for SA a few years back. They wanted to send a team of 2 and found nobody. At the time of the opportunity I didn’t play the game and thus couldn’t apply for a spot, but I darn well learned the rules and played a lots of computer simulators (which I only managed to beat on a few occasions) so that if the opportunity ever arose again I would be able to jump at it. Competing in itself is a reward, even if you finish dead last by a substantial margin.

    I have represented SA (and got junior protea colours) as a member of the junior wargames team that played in Athens 2006. I top scored in the SA juniors test match where we were hammered by the New Zealand senior team (we lost 24-104, 12 of those points were mine) and got to play at world champs in the green and gold that year. Its a great opportunity and it is an opportunity that should be afforded to rock climbers – even if not at the Olympics. From what I understand, rock climbing is still not even affiliated to SASCOC?

  8. Warren G Jun 7, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Riki: Durex supplied 150 000 condoms to the 10 000 Olympians at the London games.

    Ghaznavid: climbing has Provisional SASCOC Memebership, which will be ratified at the next SASCOC meeting in August. This is a recent event ( 11 May ’13), and is the biggest news in RSA climbing that has gone unadvertised to the community at large because- I assume- it has not yet been ratified

  9. Guy Jun 7, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    For the record, I think that climbing in the Olympics is a really crap idea because of the impact on me.

    Olympics = more media attention = more people = more damage to the environment = more access problems = I can’t go climbing in the places that I want to go.

    I know it is selfish, but the whole point of climbing is selfish (nobody else gets any benefit of me getting to the top of a rock).

  10. Warren G Jun 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Not sure which Guy this is, but assuming you are one of the Guys that boulders primarily I could encourage you to help protect the environment around you beloved Rocklands from the throngs of foreigners who come out here every year, littering and carving new paths. While remaining closer to home I assume you were also not one of the boulderers who went to one of the various closed boulder fields around Cape Town. As you speak of access, you are clearly involved in securing access to areas for yourself and your clique (as you are selfish you wouldn’t want to share these areas). What I don’t get is why you care what happens at the Olympic level, as all you will do is discover more remote areas to explore/damage yourself.

    I am wiling to bet that the only place that would be impacted by Olympic climbing in the short term would be gyms, schools and a general encouragement to climb plastic more.

  11. Guy Jun 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Warren

    This is Guy Holwill – the oke that wrote the original article at the top of the page.

    Apart from random slander, the important thing that you wrote is “in the short term” because I’m willing to bet that those new climbers that “climb more plastic” would soon discover that there is an outdoor version of climbing with the corresponding increase in littler, erosion etc – and ultimately no access for anyone. Which was my point in the first place.

  12. Ebert Jun 8, 2013 at 9:17 am #

    i just want more girls, a 50/50 equilibrium in nature has to be restored

  13. Paulbro Jun 10, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Couldn’t have looked very hard for Go players. I know a couple of people who play a good game. Well, good enough for me not to want to play them anymore…

  14. GP Jun 10, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    On the one hand, if climbing became an olympic sport, I think a lot of talented climbers in SA would get the support they deserved. On the other hand I’m not sure being more competitive is good for anyone. Also, there is something great about the sport being out of the limelight.

  15. Warren G Jun 10, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    The access argument against climbing at the Olympics can be easily tested by looking at nations with a higher climbers as a percentage of population. Nations like Spain, France, Germany, UK and American States like Colorado and California.

  16. Dave Jun 10, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    So that’s 15 condoms per athlete?

  17. Guy Jun 11, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    The access in other countries is a good idea, BUT as Ben Goldacre says “I think that you’ll find it is a bit more complicated”. Eg in Germany nobody can own a cliff, so nobody can prevent you climbing there (except birds); in The US&A most areas are owned by National Parks or the Bureau of Land Management. And although both bodies allow climbing (for a fee) you would need to understand how the environment is different to SA to make any kind of informed judgment about why they say climbing is ok and SANP and CapeNature say “yes, but…”. As far as I know, where there is climbing on private land there are access issues.

    On a separate matter, read Ben Goldacre’s “Bad Science” it is one of the better books ever written.

  18. Rob P Jun 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Totally agree with Guy. Rock Climbing is selfish and we don’t have set fields of play. Why risk future access issues by this sport going olympic merely in the name of competetion?

    I not really keen for a fringe sport to turn mainstream, look at surfing, there is so much competition for waves that there is now very often aggression in the water.

    Who wants to que for routes on a saturday at Silvermine or Boven?

  19. Warren G Jun 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Queues are already there at silvermine, but I look at them as inspiration to climb harder and at more creative locations. I agree that a City like Cape Town and JHB probably will be most impacted by an increase in climbers, but man this will take at least a decade to impact. look at the “natural” state of climbing now, and who it attracts, Olympics will have a big impact on youths climbing. they lack transport and so will spend more time in gyms than crags0 as they do now. SANCF encourages gym climbing over rock and because of the competition aspect, and as it is competition that is being encouraged here I think we are making this bigger than what it would be anyway.

    on the up side you will find brands like Red Chilli and Scarpa entering the RSA market, plus more Tranquilitas type climbing themed destinations

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