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The Olympic Venue, Walls and Suppliers

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About Tokyothe host city

Aomi Urban Sports Park, a temporary venue with a view of Tokyo Bay, will host the 2020 Olympic Games. Sport Climbing will share the venue with 3 by 3 Basketball and, according to Tokyo 2020, the venue itself serves as “a symbol of efforts to engage the youth of the world at the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

Tokyo Bay at Rainbow Bridge.

Entre-Prises To Build The Olympic Walls

Thirty-five years in the business; a decade-plus of supplying walls for IFSC events; and a history of providing walls from the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 to the original X Games, in 1995 in Providence, Rhode Island. Still, even being, as Todd Chester of Entre-Prises (EP) USA, says, “the oldest company in the neighborhood” was no guarantee of supplying the wall for the Olympics.

Chester says, “At the end of the day we don’t know how the board is going to accept our packages as opposed to somebody else’s.”

EP was chosen, and as of January the panels shipped from Europe.

Selection of the wall supplier was separate from that of hold manufacturers, with a contract with the Tokyo Organizing Committee signed April 19.

The lead wall is to be 12 meters wide by 15 meters tall, with a central prow designed to resemble the Olympic flame. The bouldering wall will be 15 meters wide by 4.5 tall, and the speed wall is to be 6 by 15.5. Chester says the walls were designed to tie in together and create “an aesthetic field of play.”

“We used all of our offices. Designers from France, USA, China and the U.K. submitted ideas and worked together, and it became a collaborative effort.”

Another effort was to keep the design simple, he says, for the routesetters to use as a blank canvas.

“The creative part is being as simple as possible, and sometimes that’s the hardest part.”

Suppliers to the Big Event

Only a few years ago, even as the IFSC was working on an official hold-supplier list, route setters could still bring extra holds to events. Otherwise holds might arrive late or not be appropriate, and setters needed to ensure a good comp. So they could, as Jackie Hueftle, co-owner of Kilter Climbing Grips, says, “bring holds in their suitcases.”

Not lately. In a process that has also led to selections for Olympic use, in 2018 IFSC officials set up a catalog for approved manufacturers for its events. Mark English of Rockcity, out of Hull, England, attended an info session at a trade show in Germany that June.

He says, “The IFSC called a meeting of all climbing-hold brands and invited everyone to apply. We made the decision to go for gold.”  Rockcity dedicated a year to building a new macro and volume series of over 100 pieces.

In 2019 the IFSC created an official catalog. Many brands appeared in it, and those products are the ones allowed in IFSC events: World Cups and World Championships. Placement in the IFSC catalog was necessary for consideration for product use in the Olympics.

The call for applications for the T20 (T for Tokyo) catalog went out last May, with selections in October. They follow.

For plastic holds: Cheeta, of France; eXpression Holds, France; Flathold, Switzerland; and Kilter, of Boulder, Colorado. For macros: Cheeta; Flathold; Agripp, of Belgium; Rockcity, UK; and XCULT, Czech Republic. For volumes: Cheeta; Rockcity; and Entre-Prises, of France. The volumes shipped from Entre-Prises USA, Bend, Oregon.

Kilter has over 5,000 holds, from which 480 have been chosen. The company shipped two full sets (630 pounds each) to Tokyo.

English says Rockcity shipped out 81 plywood volumes and 54 macros, “over a ton in weight.”

Did the companies pop champagne, hand out cigars?

“We’re too busy to celebrate,” Hueftle says.

English, too, says “no time” for a party. “It’s bad, I know. But as soon as we got the announcement, we had to make sure we could deliver on time.”

Todd Chester, of Entre-Prises USA, says with a laugh, “No cigars. No smoking in the building—we have resins! It was more a nice moment for the teams here, signing the back of a volume and knowing it’s being shipped over for that event.”

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