Taekwondo: In or out of the Olympic Games?
With the International Olympic Committee’s first crucial meeting only one week ahead and the main criteria that the Olympic governing body will use to decide which core sport to cut already explained in our previous chapter, it’s time to talk about other factors that will also play their role during the process that will resolve if Taekwondo remains an Olympic sport after Rio 2016.
As with every other relevant process, financial influences will be present during the IOC’s evaluation of the current core sports. In this sense, Taekwondo has some reasons to be optimistic about its permanence in the Olympic Program beyond the 2016 Games.
– Taekwondo’s flexibility: Taekwondo does not need a purpose-built venue, and thanks to minimal space and specialist equipment requirements can share event arenas, with a transition time between sports of less than 24 hours. This versatility minimises the OCOG’s footprint, expenditure and resource demands at every stage of Games delivery.
– Advantage over other sports: Taekwondo has a much better position than some other sports in terms of venue costs. After the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the IOC published a report which pointed out equestrian, canoe slalom, canoe sprint, rowing and archery as expensive sports that presented legacy challenges, as the low interest in them could lead to a facility waste. Fortunately, this is not Taekwondo’s case, as it is a really flexible sport that perfectly fits in the Olympic Program.
Contribution to the Olympic movement
– The Olympic values: Taekwondo has a rich set of traditions, but also moves with the times. Since becoming an Olympic sport, the constant evolution and fine-tuning has allowed Taekwondo to keep the sport relevant and appealing to the Olympic Movement.
Taekwondo has a proven commitment to sharing and promoting the Olympic Values worldwide. The WTF Peace Corps was founded in 2009, with a mission to spread hope and dreams throughout the world through taekwondo. As of this summer, 865 taekwondo instructors have been dispatched to 174 locations in 86 countries, across all five Olympic continents. The WTF is also planning to establish regional Taekwondo Peace Corps in every one of their 202 MNAs. Because taekwondo does not need lots of space or expensive specialist equipment and can be practised anywhere, inside or out, the WTF has been able to use taekwondo to bring the spirit of Olympism to some of the most deprived communities on the planet. Taekwondo is more than a sport – it is a philosophy. As such, it has proved a powerful tool for engendering self-discipline, self-awareness and control and embodies the Olympic value of respect for one’s opponent. At the 2010 UN-IOC Sport for Development and Peace Forum, the delegates recommended “to commend the achievements of the World Taekwondo Peace Corps in its successful outreach to young people and its aims of building a better and more peaceful world.”
– The Sport Excitement: The constant evolution of the sport has made bouts more intense and competitive, with athletes encouraged to use advanced techniques and put a premium on speed, skill and dynamism. Taekwondo is a more exciting spectacle than ever, and the advances in technology we use make the sport easy to pick up and more accessible to new fans.
Other Olympic sports in danger of exclusion
The information that has been leaked until now, indicates that there are 6 sports with real options of being excluded from the Olympic program as of the 2020 Olympic Games: Pentathlon, Canoe slalom, Table tennis, Badminton, Wrestling and Taekwondo. Let’s analyze the situation of the other 5.
– Pentathlon: Modern pentathlon consists of five events: pistol shooting, fencing, 200 m freestyle swimming, show jumping, and a 3 km cross-country run. This classic sport, introduced by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, seems to have most mentions when it comes to dropping a sport according to Reuters. The International Federation has been trying hard to increase the sport’s appeal to broadcasters and spectators by cutting events down to one day and they are eager to take it a step further with a single venue hosting all disciplines in Rio. All this initiatives together with the inclusion of laser pistols at London 2012 are aimed to convince the IOC of pentathlon’s bright Olympic future, but the lack of TV audience and Sponsors will be difficult to overcome.
– Canoe slalom: The canoe slalom facilities and its costs seem to be the main reason for its presence on the list of core sports in threat. The canoe slalom venue needs to be newly built in every edition of the Olympics, as it consists of a wild river with obstacles. The cost of this construction and the impossibility of reusing the venue in other kind of future events can play against its candidature to remain in the Olympic Program beyond Rio 2016.
– Table Tennis: Table tennis has one main and big problem that questions its Olympic sport status: the medal distribution of its disciplines. It is a sport completely dominated by Chinese athletes, who normally take all the gold medals in play, a fact that puts the universality of table tennis and its global appeal in serious doubt. As a proof of this Chinese domination, one only needs to take a look at the results of Beijing 2008 and London 2012. In both Beijing and London, Chinese athletes took the 4 gold medals in play (Men’s singles, Women’s singles, Men’s Team and Women’s Team) and the 2 available silver medals of the single competitions. In addition to that, they also clinched the 2 single bronzes in Beijing, which meant that the Men’s and Women’s single podiums were completely occupied by Chinese athletes.
– Badminton: Badminton has the same handicap as Table Tennis, as all its modalities, 5 in this case (Men’s singles, Women’s singles, Men’s Team, Women’s Team and Badminton mixed), were also won by Chinese athletes at London 2012. 2 out of the 5 silver medals and 1 bronze were also taken by Chinese representatives. Furthermore, in both Beijing and Athens, the Chinese athletes managed to collect 3 of the 5 gold medals, which gives an idea of the current universality of this sport.
– Wrestling: Freestyle and Greco-Roman Wrestling are also within the candidates to be dropped out of the Olympic Program. Its greatest weakness is the lack of popularity that this sport holds nowadays, which leads to really high television production costs. In the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the total cost for the Wrestling television production was 1,883,920 €, which divided into the total hours of production (45.45) results in an average cost/hour of 41,450 €, a really expensive event if compared with the rest of sports. For example, the Taekwondo competition at Beijing had an average cost/hour of 5,674 €.
With all this information in hand, Taekwondo doesn’t seem to have reasons to be really worried about, as it holds a top position among the sports in danger of exclusion. The great success of London 2012 at all levels has definitely been the key for its current situation of advantage. However, that does not mean that we must now be complacent and satisfied with our sport’s achievements.
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