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What You Need to Know About the Olympic Climbing Wall

This article was published in the summer edition of Gym Climber, available free at your local gym. Sign up with an Outside+ membership and you get unlimited access to Olympic news from climbing experts, plus you’ll enjoy a print subscription to Climbing and receive our annual coffee-table edition of Ascent. Outside+ members also receive other valuable benefits including a Gaia GPS Premium membership. Please join the Climbing team today.

THE WALLS

The Aomi Urban Sports Park, with a view of Tokyo Bay, will host Sport Climbing for the Olympic Games. The lead wall is 12 meters wide by 15 meters tall, with a central prow designed to resemble the Olympic flame. The bouldering wall is 15 meters wide by 4.5 tall, and the speed wall is 6 by 15.5 meters. The climbing wall was built by EntrePrises. Todd Chester of EntrePrises says the walls were designed to tie in together and create “an aesthetic field of play.”

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“We used all of our offices. Designers from France, U.S., China and the U.K. submitted ideas and worked together, and the wall became a collaborative effort,” Chester told Gym Climber last year. 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,” Chester said.

Reading the Bouldering Scoreboard

The scoring system for bouldering has undergone a few iterations over the past few years. We think the current one is the most intuitive.

THE COMBINED FORMAT

Each vertical stack of boxes represents a problem, with the first stack being boulder-problem number one, the second being boulder-problem number two, and so on. If the bottom half of a stack is shaded, the athlete was able to reach the zone on that particular boulder. If the top half is also shaded, that indicates the athlete topped the boulder. If neither box is shaded, the athlete was unable to make scorable progress on the boulder. Just right of the boxes you’ll see totals: the total number of tops the athlete achieved in that round (“Top”), followed by the total number of zones (“Zone”), followed by the total attempts taken to achieve all tops (“Top Attempts”). Scoring is calculated in this order. The athlete who tops the most boulders wins. If there’s a tie, the athlete who topped the most boulders and achieved the most zones wins. If there’s still a tie, then the winning score goes to the athlete with the least number of attempts taken to reach the top of all the boulders topped. The final tiebreaker is the total number of attempts taken to reach all achieved zones.

Go here: To meet the teams from the United States, Japan, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Already, the walls are being put to use and tested. Photo: CLIVE ROSE/GETTY IMAGES (

Speed. Bouldering. Lead. Athletes will need to be proficient in all three to win. Think of the combined format as the triathlon of climbing. Or of asking a marathon runner to also do a 100-meter dash and the 800-meter hurdles. Scoring is based on a multiplication of ranking from each discipline, so the top-ranking athletes from each discipline will be the most likely to win. For example, if an athlete wins Speed (which is the first event), gets sixth in Bouldering (event number two), then their combined score will be 1*6=6, prior to Lead (the finale). That athlete would be three points ahead of one who placed third in both Speed and Bouldering (3*3=9).

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