2020 Olympic Games Rowing Programme Announced

For how long will lightweight rowing stay in the Olympic Games? Photo: Pinterest.

15 June 2017

Last Monday, FISA, Worldrowing announced that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board had announced the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rowing event programme and quota. In a press release FISA writes:

The Executive Board of the IOC announced its decision for the event programme for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on Friday 9 June. The FISA proposal for the Olympic Rowing Regatta, selected by the Extraordinary Congress in Tokyo last February, has been approved: the gender-balanced 14 event programme is now official.

The IOC made a comprehensive review of all sport quotas with seven sports’ quotas being reduced, some dramatically. The rowing quota has been reduced by 24 athletes so rowing will have 526 athletes in Tokyo compared to the 550 athletes in Rio. This is part of the IOC’s commitment towards meeting the Olympic Agenda 2020 goal of a cap of 10,500 athletes at the Games. There were 10,901 athletes in Rio and, with these changes, Tokyo should have 10,616 athletes over the 28 sports.

For rowing the move to gender equity sees the adding of the women’s four and the removal of the lightweight men’s four from the Olympic rowing programme. This change will make for an equal number of women and men competing in rowing at the Olympics – 263 athletes of each gender.

FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland said: ‘This is the result of a long, transparent process of consultation with all our stakeholders in open meetings with multiple proposals and, in parallel, understanding the key issues for the IOC in constructive discussions. We are proud that rowing’s Olympic programme is now gender equal in events and athlete numbers.’

In addition to increasing gender equity to 48.8 per cent, including the introduction of several mixed gender events, and bringing the total number of athletes closer to the goal of 10,500, the IOC Executive Board has also confirmed the introduction of ‘three-on-three’ basketball which should make the Games more attractive to youth and offers this as an ‘urban’ sport innovation.

For the full 2020 Olympic programme, click here.

HTBS Editor’s Note: Looking through the Olympic programme roster, I cannot help feeling dismayed by some of the quasi-sports that are on the list: synchronised swimming, skateboarding, beach volleyball, BMX cycling and the ‘urban sport innovation’ mentioned above, 3 x 3 basketball. I do not buy the IOC Executive Board’s notion that the world’s youths would suddenly be more inclined to watch the Olympic Games on television or feel more involved in the Games because 3 x 3 basketball has risen to an Olympic sport, or skateboarding or BMX cycling. Since 2010, there is actually the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), which can host all the ‘kids’ games’.

Furthermore, studying the Olympic programme for 2020, the sport of swimming will have 37 disciplines for men and women, including marathon swimming and mixed medley relay. If we include synchronised swimming in the equation (104 athletes), swimming will have a total of 1,032 athletes competing at the Tokyo Games. That is nearly 10 per cent of the total amount of the 10,500 athletes IOC is aiming for in future Games, and this out of 28 sports. How about cutting some swimming distances, IOC? Then there are the sports that have different weight classes: boxing, judo, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling. Why is, for example, wrestling (Freestyle and Greco-Roman) allowed to have 12 different weight classes for men and six for women, while rowing is barely allowed to have two?

While it is good in the name of equality that rowing added a new Olympic boat class for women, the coxless four, removing the men’s lightweight four is a signal that FISA will soon show lightweight rowing the door when it comes to Olympic participation. In the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, only the men’s lightweight double and women’s lightweight double will be left for lightweights in the Olympic programme. Thereby, in my opinion, FISA, as the government body of international rowing, has failed many of its member nations, especially those countries outside the western hemisphere, which joined the organisation believing that they also had a chance to participate in the World Championships and the Olympic Games, and maybe even be able to take medals in these events. This was the dream of Denis Oswald, the former president of FISA between 1989 and 2014, a dream that FISA President Jean-Christophe Rolland and the FISA Council have dismissed in their eagerness to please IOC.

It is sad, really…

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