Changes include focus on females, new categories to hook urban youth
Citing greater medal prospects and female participation, China welcomed the International Olympic Committee’s decision to add 16 new events on the program of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
After the IOC Executive Board approved the addition of the events on Friday, many Chinese Olympians and sports officials voiced their support for the changes, which highlight female athletes and are aimed at developing interest among youth.
More mixed events such as the mixed 4×100-meter medley relay in swimming, a mixed team event in judo and urban youth-engaging events such as 3×3 basketball and BMX bicycle freestyle are among the additions.
The IOC also cut one men’s weightlifting category from the Tokyo program, leading to a net increase of 15 medal events.
Tokyo 2020 will see an overall reduction of 285 athletes from the 2016 Rio Games after the program adjustment, which also features significant changes in existing events toward gender balance by transferring some men’s disciplines to women’s and mixed.
The fascinating new events that we approved today represent a step up in the Olympic program, said IOC President Thomas Bach. I am delighted that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will be more youthful, more urban and will include more women.
In the 16 added events, China sees gold prospects in men’s 800-meter freestyle swimming, table tennis mixed doubles and fencing team events. More women’s disciplines will benefit the country’s strong female Olympic program, one observer said.
It sounds like a pie in the sky falling into China’s pocket, Fang Xuefeng, a sports commentator and consultant for China Central Television and Beijing Television.
The increased proportion of women’s events in 2020 caters to China’s strength in female Olympic sports such as shooting, boxing and canoeing.
Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China’s female Olympians have won 61.5 gold medals, eight more than their male counterparts, over three Summer Games.
China’s champion swimmer Sun Yang said the added 800-meter freestyle has given him extra motivation for Tokyo.
It will be of great significance if I can win that discipline at its Olympic debut, said Sun, 25, a three-time men’s 800-meter freestyle winner at world championships.
Now I have a higher goal – to dominate freestyle swimming in disciplines spanning from 200 meters to 1,500 meters, which was never done before. That’s a huge motivation.
Sun swam to fame after winning the 400-meter and 1,500-meter freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics before adding a third gold medal in the 200 meters at the Rio Olympics.
As the undisputed world power in table tennis, the new gold in mixed doubles might seem to be a done deal for China, but former national women’s team coach Shi Zhihao doesn’t think so.
The event was recommended by the Tokyo organizing committee because the Japanese team has improved its strength a lot to become a force to be reckoned with at international events, said Shi, the current vice-president of the International Table Tennis Federation.