New Olympic equestrian formats get the IOC’s nod for Tokyo 2020

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IOC President Bach gets in touch with his equestrian side, along with fellow Olympians, Chinese eventer Alex Hua Tian, German dressage rider Kristina Bröring-Sprehe, and the Spanish stallion Sarango. 
IOC President Thomas Bach gets in touch with his equestrian side, along with fellow Olympians, Chinese eventer Alex Hua Tian, German dressage rider Kristina Bröring-Sprehe, and the Spanish stallion Sarango. © FEI

Teams of three for the equestrian disciplines at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been confirmed by the IOC, cementing a change that has proved controversial for the sport’s traditionalists.

The International Olympic Committee today announced the event programme for Tokyo, with changes it said would increase female participation and bolster youth and urban appeal.

FEI President Ingmar De Vos welcomed the confirmation of the equestrian programme for Tokyo, and the International Olympic Committee’s confirmation that horse sport would be part of the 2024 Games. Paris and Los Angeles are vying for 2024 hosting rights.

The FEI has driven change in the Olympic formats following the Olympic movement’s Agenda 2020, which lays out a blueprint for the future of the Games.

The far-reaching initiative seeks, among other things, more flexibility in the Olympic program, allowing more events, while also capping athlete numbers.

The programme is seen as a potential threat to lower tier events across all sports at the Games, with the risk they may be dropped in favour of new events or sports.

The FEI won broad support for its Olympic reforms, which will see teams of three across all three disciplines and no drop score, during last year’s FEI General Assembly in Tokyo. However, traditionalists voiced concern that the changes were tampering with the very essence of the long-standing disciplines.

The IOC confirmed that the athlete quota for equestrian events in 2020 are unchanged, meaning the format changes will allow more countries to be represented.

De Vos said the IOC’s confirmation of equestrian on the Olympic programme for the 2024 Games and approval of the new formats for Tokyo 2020 were a direct acknowledgment of horse sport’s willingness to adapt and modernise.

“All the work to drive change and increase universality has been worthwhile,” he said.

“Approval of the formats for Tokyo means that we can now increase the number of flags in equestrian sport in line with the Agenda 2020 recommendations.

“With more than 30,000 athletes registered to compete in our three Olympic disciplines – and the numbers are growing every year – our new formats mean that athletes from more countries than ever before will now have the opportunity of one day realising their dream of representing their country at the Olympic Games.”

He continued: “It wasn’t easy for our community to make such drastic changes to our Olympic formats, but the national federations knew the importance of this decision and ultimately supported the proposed changes.

“Their willingness to embrace this change is without any doubt the reason we have got this fantastic news from the IOC today.”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, right, paid tribute to equestrian sport when presenting FEI President Ingmar De Vos with the IOC President’s Trophy, a bronze entitled “The Sky Is The Limit” during the annual FEI Sports Forum.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, right, paid tribute to equestrian sport when presenting FEI President Ingmar De Vos with the IOC President’s Trophy, a bronze entitled “The Sky Is The Limit” during the annual FEI Sports Forum earlier this year. © FEI/Richard Juilliart

The IOC said there would be 15 new events in Tokyo, with swimming the main beneficiary, winning approval for three additional races, one of which is a 4x400m mixed relay.

Athletics will also get a 4x400m mixed relay, with new mixed events also planned for judo, archery, table tennis, and the triathlon, which will also stage a mixed relay.

The five new sports on the programme are sport climbing, surfing, baseball/softball, skateboarding and karate.

The IOC says female participation is likely to be 48.8% in Tokyo, compared to 45.6% in Rio and 44.2% in London. This would make it the most gender-balanced Games in Olympic history.

The IOC is hoping to award both the 2024 and 2028 Games at the IOC Session in Lima in mid-September, with Paris and Los Angeles as the candidate cities.

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