Next Summer Olympics 2020 – Rock Climbing is Now Included


After the last failed attempt to be considered in the Olympic game in previous years, rock climbing is now included in the next summer Olympics 2020. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved new events including baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, climbing, and surfing. The decision was made to appeal to the young audience.
Olympic rings with transparent rims.

Location and Format

Olympic 2020 is going to be in Tokyo, Japan from July 24 to August 09, 2020. Climbing is among the five the newest event for the Olympics 2020. It will include three disciplines: speed, bouldering, and sport. Twenty men and twenty women will compete over four days and the top man and top woman will be chosen for the Olympic Gold Medal based on the combined score of all three disciplines.

A total of forty athletes to compete in the Olympic games based on performance instead of nationality. IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) facilitate the selection for the Olympic climbing qualifiers. According to www.thebmc.co.uk, the athletes can qualify through the following events. Click here for the IFSC format ==> IFSC Sport Climbing Format, February 2017.

    • 2019 IFSC World Championships Combined
    • IFSC Continental Championships Combined
    • Possible additional Olympic Qualification Event in 2019 and/or 2020
    • 2019 IFSC World Cup Overall Combined – TBC – these athletes will most likely qualify to compete in the additional selection events which will be Olympic Game combined format


The current elected format is only for the 2020 Olympics. It could be modified for future games. Since this is the first rock climbing Olympic games and it is not a legacy sport, any future host country could elect not to hold a climbing competition. Rock climbing event has to prove its worth in order to come back in 2024.

speed climbing at Chamonix
Speed Climbing
Bouldering – no rope
lead climbing
Top Rope and Lead Climbing

Triathlon Format

The sequence of the discipline is Speed, Bouldering, and then Lead over four days. The combined event will consist of two rounds: the qualifications and finals. All athletes, twenty men, and twenty women will participate in the first round and the best six athletes qualify for the Finals. The score is given by multiplying the Athlete’s ranking (place) in each discipline. The lower the score the better. Here is the break down of the four-day sequence:

  • The first day will be Speed Qualification.
  • The second day will be Boulder Qualification.
  • Third-Day will be Lead Qualification.
  • Fourth Day is the final with all three disciplines.
  1. Speed Qualification – Athletes climb a 15 m high wall at angle of 95 degrees to see who can climb the fastest time. The fastest record time for men is five to six seconds while for women is around seven to eight seconds.
  2. Bouldering Qualification – Climbers climb as many fixed routes on a 4 m high wall within a time range of 4 minutes. The climber climbs solo without rope. The climber finishes a route is when he or she holds the final hold on top with both hands. They can try again if they fall on their initial attempt within a specified time.
  3. Lead Climbing is when climbers attempt to climb as high as they can on a wall that is more than 15m tall within 6 minutes. The climber attaches the safety rope to quickdraws along the route. When attaches the rope to the top quick draw, the climber completes the climb. When the climber falls, the height attained is recorded. The climber has only one try.
For bouldering and lead climbing, the climbers are not allowed to practice the routes in advance. Each athlete is in isolation before their turn. They are only given a few minutes to examine the wall and routes prior to starting.

As for the speed climbing, the route is the standard route for all gyms. All speed climbers are aware of the pattern and what it takes to climb it. The only factor in their time, how fast can they climb the speed route.

Current US and World Championship Climbing format

The current US and World Championship Climbing format also consists of three different disciplines: Lead, Boulder, and Speed. However, the climbers can choose a discipline they would like to compete in. They are not required to compete in all three disciplines; therefore, they only train to meet their specialized discipline.

Mixed perspectives

It is exciting to see that rock climbing will be part of the Olympic 2020. However, there are mixed feelings among the older professional climbers. In general, the athletes who train for the IFSC World Cup series specialized in bouldering or lead climbing rarely train for speed. It is hard to train for both bouldering and lead in one season. While leading requires footwork flow, stamina, and power, bouldering requires footwork and power. Speed climbing requires a different training routine altogether. Will this weed out the professional climbers from the Olympic competition altogether? It is hard to say at this point. The youth generation is not worried. They are prepping and including the speed climbing training into their routines.

Others believe Speed climbing will be one of the most captivating events at the Olympics because of the explosive, unpredictable, and dramatic nature of the discipline. Some also believe that having the three different disciplines even the playing field for athletes who are non-professional and professional climbers.

The current World cup and USA competition format do not have all three disciplines combined in one competition yet. The IFSC will need to update the competition format to reflect the format for the Olympic qualification in 2019.



I think it is a huge step for the rock climbing community to be in the Olympics 2020. Even though climbing is already becoming a popular sport in the US and internationally, it will increase exponentially after 2020 Olympic exposure. More climbing gyms will be popping up in different states and all over the world to accommodate the demand.

I believe the current climbing format will evolve over time. Perhaps, they will add individual specialized discipline as well as the sum of all three for the next Olympics 2024. Similarly, to gymnastics where there are individual event medals as well as an all-around medal.

I am very excited to be part of the climbing community and watch it grows exponentially. It is definitely an exciting time. For 2028, the Olympics will be in Los Angeles. I look forward to that.

I would love to hear your thoughts on rock climbing for Olympic 2020. Would you be willing to participate?

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