Updated August 3rd, 2016
After coming back from the AAU Nationals, our sport karate team is buzzing from the possibility of seeing Karate included the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Most people assume that Karate is already in the Olympics. Although it has made the short list numerous times, it has yet to cross the finish line as an actual sport. There is a current proposal that needs to be ratified in Rio next month that will see Karate as one of five sports accepted into Tokyo. Either all five sports or none of them will become accepted.
Why has Karate made it so close in the past and what makes things different this year? Karate has not been unified in the past. In fact it still isn’t. For the 2020 inclusion there is a mandate that the new games must be united and transparent. Sports with unification issues were Skateboarding/Roller Sports, Baseball/Softball, and Karate. Only Karate has not yet been unified.
The World Karate Federation (WKF) is the only association recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Because of this, they are currently under scrutiny for being discriminatory against other popular types of sport karate using the IOC recognition to leverage assimilation. Even with this power however, it has been unable to successful unify the various groups. Recognizing this, the major opposing world associations have come together under the United World Karate (UWK) banner to tackle the issue of discrimination.
All this hoopla might be for nothing since according to “Inside the Games” the WKF has announced that the entire world will be part of the selection process for Olympic qualification. “How” will be determined in October during the World Championships in Linz, Austria. If it is true that organizations outside of the WKF will be included in selection process will the members of UWK finally have their voices heard?
With only 80 best athletes in world earmarked for Karate in 2020 in 8 divisions, what will the landscape of Olympic Karate look like. There are a total of 20 athletes split equally in the male and female kata divisions and the rest equally split in 6 Kumite divisions. Three male and three female.
What happens though after 2020? Wushu and Pankration were introduced into the Olympics by their host countries in the past. However, they failed to earn enough interest to remain. Will Olympic Karate find the same fate? According to the Boston Globe, Karate’s acceptance, as well as the other 4 events have earned their spots as a one time inclusion. The future of further games is not clear and may have to be voted on again.
Tae Kwon Do has been a part of the Olympics since 1988. It boasts full contact and on paper it looks remarkably exciting. However low viewership has caused the IOC to revisit its viability as an Olympic sport. Will Karate fall into the same dilemma? If Karate does become accepted, will we support it in every way? All of these factors play a part of the big picture. Olympics after all has become the greatest sporting show on earth. If Karate is to be a serious player, are we all willing to play the game?