Karate Under Consideration for Olympic Games Addition
A couple days ago I wrote about taekwondo being considered for eviction from the Olympic Games following the 2012 games. Some encouraging feedback has motivated me to extend our little discussion of karate’s addition to the Olympic Games.
How long has karate been under consideration for addition? I dug around a little to find the proceedings of previous IOC Sessions at which the Olympic committee vote on the removal and addition of candidate sports. In 2005 in Singapore, karate made it past the first round of voting along with squash but was rejected at the last minute. Squash did make it and I think you’ll see it at the 2012 Games in Longon. Karate is again on the table for the next IOC committee meeting to take place in 2009 in Copenhagen. So it seems karate is seriously on the block.
In order for it to be accepted, we need to look at the requirements for the addition of karate to the Games. The first requirement brings us back to why Taekwondo is being scrutinized: judging. I think “te” pointed it out best that scoring in karate tournaments needs to be identified within quantitative parameters. Now, the first Karate World Championships were held in 1970 in Japan with 33 countries and 178 athletes. The 17th World Championships held in Mexico in 2004 saw 79 countries and 582 athletes participating. That’s been long enough to have a track record for accurately judging these tournaments, hasn’t it? Have any of you attended these tournaments? Were there major discrepancies in judging accuracy?
Note to anyone partaking in the definition of scoring requirements for Olympic Karate: don’t make it as ridiculous as judo… please! Understandably, a subjective means of identifying points is necessary, but drafting up immaculately unrealistic rules is not going to help anyone. I don’t really keep up the judo scene, but if the scoring requirements of judo are not reviewed soon, the number of people watching is going to plummet.
Another requirement for Olympic inclusion is viewership. Just like CBC specials and prime-time sitcoms, the Olympics need people to watch them in order to survive. If no one is going to tune in, karate is not likely to be accepted, or will at least be unlikely to stay around if it does make it in, just like the story of taekwondo. Considering the competition participation mentioned above, the ISKF having 42 member companies with 10’s of thousands of members, and the JKA have at least as many, I don’t see viewership being an issue.
If karate is going to make it into the Olympics, its going to be at the foot of the World Karate Federation, as a competitive standards body for karate. I don’t say this likely because the WKF was official recognized by the IOC at their 109th post-Olympics Session in Seoul in 1998 [pdf]. After this point, some predicted that karate would be entered as soon as 2004 — this didn’t happen. Why? Unknown. What is known, is that there are two martial arts (“martial sports”?) in the Olympics already and karate has been up for a vote twice and rejected twice (although by an ever decreasing margin).
I wonder if there has been some reluctance from some karate practicitioners to add karate to the Olympics for 2008 or 2012 in fear that it would meet a similar fate as taekwondo is now. Does addition of a martial art in the Olympics dilute the art into a meaningless set of punches (et al.) like any other martial art? Can we use the same formula that has been used for the hundreds of competitive karate tournaments worldwide for the past 30+ years?
I’d like to hear your comments.