RIO DE JANEIRO – Olympic leaders approved the addition of five sports to the program of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, including the return of baseball-softball and the introduction of youth-oriented events such as skateboarding and surfing.
The International Olympic Committee voted to accept the five-sport package, which also includes karate and sport climbing.
The five, which were proposed for inclusion last year by Tokyo organizers, were approved unanimously by the IOC members.
Under new IOC rules, local organizers can propose the inclusion of at least one additional sport for their games. Wednesday's approval was for the Tokyo Games only.
The new sports will add 18 events and 474 athletes to the program. The Tokyo Games will now feature 33 sports and about 11,000 athletes, compared to the usual number of 28 sports and 10,500 athletes.
The IOC said the package presents a mix of the traditional and youth-focused sports.
"This will help make the games one of the most innovative games in our history," IOC vice president John Coates said.
While baseball and softball — both highly popular in Japan — will be returning after a 16-year absence, the other sports will be making their Olympic debuts.
Baseball and softball have been off the Olympic program since the 2008 Beijing Games. The two were rejected in separate bids to return for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, so they combined forces to put forward a single bid for inclusion in Tokyo.
Baseball was a full part of the Olympic program from 1992 to 2008, with softball joining in 1996. The IOC voted them both out in 2005.
Baseball will have a six-team tournament in Tokyo, short of the eight-team format sought by officials from the sport's international federation. Women's softball will also have six teams.
Skateboarding will have street and park events, and feature 80 athletes — 40 men and 40 women. In climbing, 40 competitors will take part in the disciplines of speed, bouldering and lead (also known as sport). Karate will have 80 athletes competing in men's and women's Kumite and Kata events, while surfing will have two shortboard events for 40 competitors.
Organizers hope skateboarding will catch on with worldwide viewers as halfpipe in snowboarding did in the Winter Olympics.
"There are more participants in skateboarding than most sports so I feel like they (the Olympics) need our credibility and they need our excitement level in their Summer Games," skateboarding icon Tony Hawk said recently.