While climbing rocks is surely one of humanity’s oldest pastimes, modern rock climbing emerged at the turn of the 20th century with competition rock climbing hitting the scene in the 70’s and 80’s. Flash forward to the 21st century and its a full on international crazy. The 2020 (or rather 2021) Tokyo Summer Olympics will showcase several new sports as the games strive for broader appeal in the modern era and Sport Climbing is set center stage for the debut.

Here’s a video about the Olympic Sport Climbing Format:


An article by Caroline Roberts and Mark Serrels published on CNET details how the new sport will be scored and presented at the upcoming international games.

The quick ‘n dirty:

  • Only 10 Countries will be allowed to send Climbing athletes, with a limit of 4 (2 male, 2 female) athletes per country represented.
  • Three Climbing disciplines will be showcased; Speed Climbing, Bouldering, and Lead Climbing. Scores from all three disciplines will be combined with a single set of medals (per gender) awarded for the overall winners.
  • Speed Climbing format: two climbers (on rope), one wall. Climbers race head to head, first to the top wins.
  • Bouldering format: a timed ‘Route Sweep’ where climbers complete as many bouldering routes as they can in a 4 minute window.
  • Lead Climbing format: scored by the holds climbers hit. Each hold is worth a point and climbers have 6 minutes to ascend the wall using quick-draws and a safety rope. Naturally, whoever climbs the highest, wins.
  • The place ranking for each climber in each discipline will be multiplied together to produce a combined score, the climbers with the lowest combined score win.
  • Example: John Doe’s place ranking was 1st place for Speed Climbing, 3rd place for Bouldering, and 4th place for Lead Climbing. John Doe’s combined score is 12 (1 x 3 x 4). Bob Smith’s place ranking was 2nd for Speed Climbing, 1st for Bouldering, and 3rd for Lead Climbing. Bob Smith’s combined score is 6 (2 x 1 x 3). Bob scores better than John in the overall event.

If the scoring format doesn’t confound you, controversy surrounds almost every aspect of the presentation of Sport Climbing in the Olympics. Most notably is the decision to include Speed Climbing which requires drastically different skill sets than Bouldering and Lead Climbing. Furthermore, with only 10 nations permitted to send climbers, it certainly strains the Olympic spirit of ‘shared humanity and international participation.’ Tell us what you think.

Images by Mateusz Loskot & adam ondra IG

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