Six-person IFSC struggles to cope with demands of adding sport climbing to Olympics
By Callum Murray at SportAccord
The International Federation of Sport Climbing is struggling to cope with the workload imposed as a result of sport climbing’s participation in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo and the 2018 Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires, with a staff of just six people (until recently it had three).
Sport climbing was one of five new sports added to the programme of the Tokyo Olympics last year at the behest of the organising committee under the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 reform programme which allows host cities a say in the composition of the programme for the first time. The sport has also been newly included in the Youth Olympic programme.
Speaking on the sidelines of the SportAccord convention here in Aarhus, Marco Scolaris, the IFSC’s president, told Sportcal: “We’re too busy. It’s really too much. We started with the great news of our vision being accepted for Tokyo 2020. Then a few months later we were invited to be in Buenos Aires [in 2018].
“Of course that’s great news because our sport is youth-orientated. But it was already difficult to be in Tokyo when we were admitted four years before the event. Now, with Buenos Aires, it’s two years before the event. We have to deliver a huge effort to supply sport climbing events in both places with limited resources, even though our staff has increased from three to six people.”
The federation’s budget for this year is just €1.15 million ($1.23 million) albeit this represents an increase of about 10 to 15 per cent on previous years, thanks to sponsors and broadcasters making a greater contribution, in part as a result of the sport’s new-found Olympic status.
The federation will also receive an increased contribution from the International Olympic Committee – albeit from a very low base of €25,000 a year, an amount which is set to rise to €70,000 a year.
One of the conditions of the addition of the five new sports to the programme (the others are baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding and surfing) is that they do not share in the distribution of TV revenues that are received by the 28 sports on the existing programme.
Scolaris said: “We asked the IOC to get some more [funding] to manage our Olympic preparations. The five sports will get something, but they’re not able to say how much. The IOC has approached the Tokyo organising committee to get some help from them. But we don’t expect a lot of money.”
The Tokyo organising committee has been undergoing a well-publicised budgetary crisis, with the Japanese government seeking cutbacks on the cost of hosting the games.
Scolaris continued: “To manage both games we need at least two more [staff]. But for my federation, according to its activities, maybe if we had 12, double today’s number, we would be in a safe position. The IOC was able to make the biggest revolution in its history with these five sports but like all revolutions it needs time to stabilise. For the other three [excluding the relatively wealthy baseball-softball], we are in a transitory period where many things need to be fixed.”
Tokyo 2020 has come under fire from some international federations for a perceived rigidity in dealing with their requirements, but, while pointing out that, as a first time Olympic federation, the IFSC has no previous experience to serve as a comparison, Scolaris was unwilling to criticise organisers, saying: “All international federations must show flexibility. We’re moving from a completely different society and culture [the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro].
“We also understand it’s difficult for them to have five new sports to deal with. They had a masterplan [which now has to be amended].”
It was, of course, Tokyo 2020 itself that asked for the addition of the five sports, but Scolaris said: “People ask and sometimes they don’t evaluate the consequences. Be careful what you wish for, because sometimes wishes come true! It’s a very exciting moment for everyone. Everyone should show maturity. These are turbulent times but we have to accept it and go on. We want to play this role.”
In Tokyo, sport climbing is slated to occupy a city centre location which is presently a parking lot. Scolaris said: “Changes might occur but at the moment we will share a temporary venue with skateboarding, not far from other sports like beach volleyball. The concept is an urban cluster of trendy or youth sports. That could change because the organising committee is under pressure to reduce costs. But it’s very iconic, close to the Olympic Village, with the Rainbow Bridge behind.
“We really appreciate to be with skateboarding. Many climbers are also skateboarders.”
Despite his concerns over staffing and resources, Scolaris insisted that the federation has no regrets over joining the Olympic programme. He said: “When we were founded one of the questions on the table was, should we try to go to the Olympic Games, and unanimously the 57 federations said yes. From that moment on we had the mandate to go in that direction. When we had the possibility to see Agenda 2020 we saw that door was slightly open, so we said ‘OK, let’s go’. Luckily Japan is very developed for sport climbing and they have medal hopes.”• The IFSC has announced an agreement with FloSports, the USA-based live streaming sports platform.
The new FloClimbing service, a live and on-demand subscription platform, will showcase the IFSC’s events from 2017 to 2019, beginning with this weekend’s IFSC Bouldering World Cup event in Meiringen, Switzerland.
FloClimbing will also air original documentaries on sport climbing athletes, as well as technique breakdowns, news, highlights and interviews.
The agreement excludes linear television rights, which continue to be marketed separately by the federation, and also the territory of Japan, where an existing contract for online and linear television is in place.
The IFSC claimed that the agreement will allow it to “create more content, high-quality production and more in depth coverage than ever before” and reach a “broader” audience.
Last year, United World Wrestling, the sport's international governing body, signed up with FloSports to launch a new streaming service.