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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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Baseball and softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing have all been added to the Tokyo 2020 programme, it was confirmed here today.

The decision, made in a single vote by International Olympic Committee (IOC) members, had been widely expected, although the ratification came after the raising of several concerns and criticisms of the process.

It means 18 new events and 474 new athletes will appear on the Olympic programme.

Six-team tournaments have been proposed in men's baseball and women's softball, which were both axed after Beijing 2008, with baseball squads set to number 24 and softball 15.

A total of 60 karatekas are set compete in six kumite sparring and two kata demonstration categories, and 40 athletes are scheduled to take part in bouldering and lead and speed combined climbing.

Another 40 athletes will participate in men's and women's shortboard surfing.

Forty will also take part in men and women's street and park skateboarding events.

"We want to take sport to the youth," said IOC President Thomas Bach.

"With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us - we have to go to them."

IOC members showed more dissent than expected, however, in questioning the choice of the sports as well as the format of those selected.

Canada's Richard Pound even criticised the decision to overlook squash, a sport he said "perfectly fits the desires of the Olympic Movement".

Others, including North Korea's increasingly vocal Ung Chang, expressed concerns over whether leading baseball players could miss the Games in much the same way as top golfers are at Rio 2016.

This was exacerbated by IOC Programme Commission chair Franco Carraro's admission that no agreement had been reached over Major League Baseball participation.

Both baseball and softball will be held at the main venue of the Yokohama Stadium, while karate will take place at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo.

Both sport climbing and skateboarding will take place at a special downtown facility in central Tokyo, while surfing will be held around one hour from Tokyo at Shida Shita Point.

Concerns also remain over the governance of the skateboarding competition - with the application submitted by the International Roller Sports Federation (FIRS) - as well as over the size of the waves for surfing.

The five sports will receive no share of the revenue at Tokyo 2020, the IOC have confirmed, with this to be distributed between only the 28 sports due to appear on the programme at Rio 2016.

World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari said the international governing body is "honoured and excited".

"Today’s historic decision by the IOC is a 'home run' for the Olympics, our sport and the Tokyo 2020 Games.

"Nations competing for the Olympic gold medal in baseball and softball, in Japan, will best showcase the nature and spirit of our global sport - and it will be the most covered and most exciting international baseball/softball tournaments in history, which will help build our case to be featured in future Olympic Games, as well."

The decision "represents an outstanding and ground-breaking moment" for the sport, according to World Karate Federation President Antonio Espinos.

"The hopes and dreams of millions of karatekas around the world came true today," a statement added.

"After hundreds of years of history of this sport, and following many years of hard work by the WKF, the karate family has finally fulfilled their dream of seeing this discipline in the Olympic Games, which will be accomplished precisely in Tokyo, the capital city of the birth nation of the sport."

"We are so happy that sport climbing will be participating in the Games of Tokyo," said International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) President Marco Scolaris.

"The Olympics have been our dream for quite some time, and now the hard work has finally paid off.

"We have reached the final hold of our unbelievable climb, but another climb awaits us.

"Our team is committed to preparing sport climbing for the Olympic Games, and over the next four years we will continue to work with the IOC to do so."

Sabatino Aracu, President of FIRS, hailed a "very important achievement that makes us really proud".

"It comes at the end of a very long selection process that, since the invite from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee in February 2015, has seen our International Federation working closely with the IOC.

"It is also a starting point of the work we will have to carry out in the next years to make sure that the presence of skateboarding in the Olympic Games in Tokyo meets the highest expectations."

International Surfing Association President Fernando Aguerre added: "After decades of hard work and dedication we are absolutely thrilled that surfing will officially join the Olympic sports programme at Tokyo 2020.

"Our Olympic dream has now become a reality and on behalf of the entire surfing family I would like to express our sincere thanks to the IOC and Tokyo 2020 for their pioneering vision in making this historic decision possible.

"This is a game-changing moment for surfing."

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