2021 Olympics: Explaining How Skateboarding, Surfing and Other New Sports Will Work at the Games

More than a century after the Olympic Games were introduced in their modern form in 1896, the landscape of the sports world has been radically altered by the introduction and popularization of various spectacle sports. And in that time frame, the Olympics have been adjusted accordingly.

Keep up to date with countries’ performances at the Games by checking our medal counter

This year is no different, as the Tokyo Olympics will feature five new additions to its lineup of games. Below is a full rundown of the five new sports introduced for the 2020 Olympics:

Basket 3×3

In addition to five-on-five basketball, the Olympics introduced a new 3×3 basketball tournament consisting of eight men’s and eight women’s teams. The rules for 3×3 basketball vary from standard basketball, as games are played on a half court with only four players in total. Baskets are worth one point – or two points if they come from beyond the arc.

Matches end after a team has scored 21 points, or go into overtime if neither team has reached that total after 10 minutes of play.


Karate is one of three sports unique to the Tokyo Olympics due to its popularity in Japan, a group that also includes baseball and softball. While karate normally has five weight classes, the International Olympic Committee has condensed the total number of weight classes to three.

There will be a total of eight medal events for karate:

  • Three kumite (face to face sparring) for men
  • Three kumite for women
  • Kuma (solo demonstration) for men and women

Forty athletes will compete in karate, with no more than one representative from each country.


Long one of the most popular extreme sports, skateboarding finally has its place at the Olympic Games with the introduction of two different disciplines. Skateboarding will be divided into two different disciplines:

In street skateboarding, athletes will compete on a course with real obstacles, such as stairs and rails. Each skater will complete two 45 second runs and perform five tricks which will be judged on a score out of 10. Of those seven total performances, the four highest scores for each skater will count.

In park skateboarding, skaters will compete against each other in a dome-shaped bowl with each skater doing three races. Skaters will be judged on a scale of 100 points, only their best score will count. The higher and lower scores of each skater will both be eliminated.

A total of 80 athletes representing 26 countries will compete in skateboarding, with all events reduced to eight-person finals after the preliminary heats.


Olympic surfing will take place at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, with 40 surfers competing in different rounds. Surfers will try to catch as many waves as possible during their allotted time, with the judges scoring out of 10 for each wave. The two best scores of each surfer will eventually count.

While surfing is scheduled for July 24-28, it should be noted that surf events are weather dependent.

Sport climbing

Sport Climbing features an indoor climbing competition, with athletes scaling an inverted wall with grips placed so they can scale. While the three disciplines of sport climbing – speed climbing, lead climbing and bouldering – are usually contested separately, the Olympics will see all three combined into one.

In speed climbing, two climbers will compete against each other by scaling a 49-foot wall. The wall is also 49 feet high in lead climbing, but the holds are placed in a way that makes it more difficult to access the summit. While most speed surges occur within seconds, the lead climb occurs within six minutes.

As a whole, the wall is only 13 feet high and the athletes do not use a lifeline. The boulder is graded according to the difficulty of the routes taken by climbers to make their way to the top.

The sport climbing competitions will include 20 men and 20 women and will take place from August 3-6.

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