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Indoor, Man-Made And Artificial

Updated: Dec 10, 2019

SESSION I | Sunday 2 February 2020 | 09:30 - 10:30 | Santa Clara | Panel Discussion |

A number of outdoor sports have moved indoors and/or substituted the challenges imposed by nature with the man-made and the artificial. Representatives of the governing bodies for two such sports are on the panel looking back at evolutionary processes extending over decades and concluding only very recently – with both making it onto the program of the Tokyo 2020 and, most likely, the Paris 2024 Olympics.

Utah Olympic Park © Red Bull

According to the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), some 25 million climbers worldwide practice their sport regularly. Their number has exploded with the development of artificial climbing walls starting in the 1970s. An average of 3,000 people try climbing for the first time every single day. Growth has been particularly impressive over the past 20 years, with more and more indoor climbing gyms opening up around the world, and with the number of competitions increasing at national and international levels.

Sport climbing's success came not as easily as it looks from the "mission accomplished" vantage point. It required a fair amount of "politicking" to develop and govern the three IFSC disciplines – Bouldering, Lead and Speed – in two divisions and for different age grades, and for a new breed of athletes who don't have all that much in common with the mountaineering predecessors.

The climbing wall is a game changer in many ways. A sophisticated piece of sporting equipment, it allows for climbing to steadily gain in popularity – and it is the catalyst for improvements in technique to the benefit of climbing indoors as well as outdoors. Would Alex Honnold have been able to free solo El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park without the existence of climbing walls. Hard to say: his career got started on one at age five.

Recommended Reading

This paper discusses the processes underpinning the evolutionary development of sport climbing in recent decades, with a particular focus on the impact of its inclusion in the Olympic Games. New institutionalism and resource-dependence theory provide an analytical and explanatory framework for this study. The research adopted a qualitative method strategy comprising a series of interviews and the analysis of documents, reports, press and social media. The recent inclusion of the sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program has created challenges, primarily because of strong values inherent within the sport. The research, however, shows that the values of a sport can expand and develop in order to fit the regulatory legitimacy required by inclusion in the Olympic Games. Nonetheless, the research also shows that involvement with the IOC raises questions about who "owns" the sport.

Climbing's representative at Indoor Skydiving 2020 | First Global Summit by FAI is the former IFSC Secretary General, Mr. Reindert Lenselink.

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