Owen Clarke is a writer currently based in Tennessee. He is a Contributing Digital Editor at Rock and Ice and Gym Climber. He enjoys Southern sandstone and fish tacos, and is afraid of heights.
Follow him on Instagram at @opops13.
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
After last year’s much anticipated Tokyo 2020 Olympics were postponed due to the international coronavirus pandemic, climbers started looking to 2021 for our sport’s big Olympic debut.
Since 1896, when the modern Olympics began, the games have only been cancelled outright three times (once during World War I and twice during World War II). Meanwhile, despite other years inwrought with hostage crises, boycotts, bombings, and other international conflicts, 2020 marks the first time in the history of the Olympics that the IOC has postponed the games. Save the three cancellations during WWI and WWII, Winter and Summer Olympic Games have occurred on schedule for the last 125 years, until 2020.
Given that vaccine rollouts are proceeding at a glacial pace in many major nations, and new, more contagious coronavirus variants are appearing across the globe, there has been substantial doubt about whether the Tokyo Olympics will go ahead this summer. That said, it appears that officials are still planning to light the torch. “We are not speculating whether the Games will take place,” Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), recently stated. “We are working on how the Games will take place.”
Japan remains the last of the world’s major economies to have not yet deployed a vaccine, with frontline healthcare providers expected to begin receiving vaccinations in late February. It remains unclear when vaccines will be available for the general Japanese public, but widespread vaccination by July is not likely. Despite the promise vaccines offer to make a safer environment for athletes, both Bach and Japanese government officials have come out with public statements affirming that vaccination is not a required to compete in Tokyo.
The IOC, however, is releasing a series of illustrated public playbooks detailing exactly how they plan to maintain a safe and successful environment for athletes, officials, press, and Tokyo citizens this summer. The first of these playbooks are available online here.
40 climbers will compete in Tokyo (20 men, 20 women) this summer, each competing for one of three available combined medals. Each athlete will climb in all three disciplines (Speed, Bouldering, and Lead), and be ranked based on multiplier score.
The Tokyo Olympic Games will begin on July 23, 2021, and the sport climbing event will occur from August 3 to August 6.