First off let me clearly state that the following opinions are based on my personal convictions and do not necessarily represent those of any other organization. In addition I would like to state that I am a bigger supporter of the IOC and everything that the Olympic Games represents. Few are the opportunities in today's world to set aside politics, religion and race and interact as one global group with nothing but goodwill, albeit laced with healthy competetiveness.
Olympic Karate, this is a subject which almost makes me speechless... almost... That karate has yet to be voted an official Olympic sport is almost beyond my comprehension. Forgetting my debateable objectiveness, worldwide participant statistics alone should be sufficient to sway even the most indifferent court.
Following every Olympic Games, the IOC gets together to review how the last Games went and what, if any, changes are suggested. It is at this time that the members vote for inclusion of new sports, or as was the case in 2005 (See IOC Report) when not one, but two sports got the boot, they vote them out. Baseball and, yes, believe it or not, Softball were the unlucky sports this time around. That this latter sport ever got voted in in the first place amazes me. Perhaps what we need is a "Martial Arts" sport which can have as many divisions as Aquatics which includes disciplines like synchronized swimming which I doubt has much in the way of participation, or even spectator numbers. And wait, Bridge became an IOC Recognized Olympic Sport! Excuse me while I take a moment to catch my breath... Now, will there be ash trays provided for the little old lady "athletes" if this ever makes the Olympic Program? What's next? Bingo?!
And yet karate, one of the most physically and mentally demanding and technically challenging sports out there, is still in Olympic limbo sharing equal status with... bridge.
Now despite my apparent attacks of the IOC here, I should argue on their behalf that the inclusion process needs to be one that ensures the continued elite integrity of the sports included. By this I mean that it needs to be difficult to get included. In that respect I do not fault the system. From what I know of the process it seems sound enough. So what is lacking for karate? Why are we still coming up short of votes?
Several reasons. Firstly, IOC members have a significant number of legitimate sports, all struggling for inclusion, to consider. This is no one's fault. Sports like karate just plainly did not exist when the ancient Greeks conceived the Olympic Games. This is true for many modern sports. Bit by bit they have been included when they have shown that the level of competition is high enough to warrant it and that the governing bodies are professional enough to keep it under control. So that's problem number one, many other legitimate sports competing against karate. As the IOC report of the 2005 meeting shows (Link above), we are on top of the heap of sports in IOC member's minds. However, the system requiring 2/3 rds of the vote for inclusion makes it tough if even a few members vote for other sports.
Secondly, media exposure is an issue. There are several reasons karate doesn't get the TV exposure I believe it should. Poor camera set ups, tournament running, and overall poor show producing are the leading reasons. There are however others. No one, not even competitors, are entertained by watching two fighters sit and wait on each other to stumble in order to deliver safe counter reverse punches... boring.... in addition, the action is sometimes so fast that an untrained eye doesn't understand what just happened during a clash. This is where good comentating and slow motion camera work can help. But this is all an entirely different subject which I could go on about for hours.
Lastly and most importantly, money. We lack money to "market" our sport to the media in general, and IOC members in particular. The inclusion process is very similar to getting a new law passed at Congress or Parliament. It requires a certain amount of "lobbying" in order to make IOC members aware of the virtues of your sport, and making sure those virtues, and indeed your sport, are burning in their minds when they go to cast their votes. Those of you familiar with politics are familiar with the term "Lobbying" and its use to influence policy decisions. Sports is no different. Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with lobbying if done honestly. It is basically just marketing. And marketing requires money and experts in that field to make it work.
Conclusion: Again, in my humble opinion, if you want to help karate get into the Olympics, send cash, and lots of it. You can contact us here for information.
Article date: August 2006.