Monday, 18 August 2008

Climbing the way to Olympic gold

Indoor climbing - why is it not in the Olympic games?

Indoor climbing competitions have been popular since the 80's, and the discipline has its own World Cup and Championships in the difficulty and bouldering, as well as in the more recent addition of the exciting speed climbing competition.

The competition structure is firmly in place, scoring systems are well established. In many ways it is an ideal Olympic sport, more so than some of the team sports already included in the games. The aim is to climb the highest, the fastest, or do the most difficult problem. These are ideals that any audience can relate to, even if they are not fans of the sport. In some ways indoor climbing can be compared to gymnastics (although not nearly as spectacular to watch) in terms of the weird body contortions required to pull off the moves. Technique, power, endurance and grace are required in combination with concentration and focus. 

It is a relatively safe sport; harnesses, ropes and equipment ensure falls are caught safely.

The problems I can forsee with the inclusion of the sport at the Olympics are:

1) The cost of setting up walls. Although there is a cost in setting up fake rapids and the like for the kayaking events. I am not sure of the comparison with the cost of rigging up the walls.

2) Audience appeal. This sport, while technical, can be boring to watch unless you are a climber yourself. But the same can be argued for those long distance indoor cycling races (kay, G and my dad watched an ENTIRE 100 lap cycling race which seemed to be based upon some incomprehensible scoring system and I nearly died of boredom. Surely climbing is more exciting than that?)

Those are the only objections I can think of really. So bring it on.

Outdoor climbing is another sport altogether. There are no championships required. The best are those who climb the hardest routes (based on various grading systems) and we know who is best because of the informal telegraph that keeps everyone up to date with who climbs what. It is an honour system that works well and is in line with the mentality of the sport.

The indoor climbers are great athletes and competitors and deserve their spot in the Olympic limelight. It is an awesome sport in my horribly biased opinion, and horribly difficult too.

Come on Olympic official people, you know what you need to do.

(photograph copyright of Po)

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