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Olympics for millennials? The new sports taking the stage at Rio and Tokyo

Justina Crabtree; special to

Olympics for millennials? The new sports making an appearance at Rio and Tokyo

Olympic Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Christophe Launay | Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday confirmed five new sports to be included in the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Skateboarding and surfing, among others, will now have a place at the games. This adds 18 new medal events to the Tokyo Games – and more than 470 athletes. This comes as two new disciplines are being unveiled during the Rio Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release: "We want to take sport to the youth."

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

CNBC highlights the new sports we'll see in Rio and Tokyo, alongside some of the also-rans.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through the year 2032.


Skateboarders compete in BOWL-A-RAMA at Bondi Beach on February 21, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.
Zak Kaczmarek | Getty Images

International Skateboarding Federation President Gary Ream told CNBC via e-mail, "Skateboarding has grown from a fad in the 1960s to the center of mainstream youth culture by the early 2000s.

"It got there by maintaining its own culture and ecosystem though endemic media." As to why the sport was selected for Tokyo 2020, he adds, "Skateboarding leads the world in terms of socially connected and technologically savvy young participants."


Mark Ralston | AFP | Getty Images

Surf lifesaving was a demonstration sport at the Paris Games in 1900, and 120 years later, surfing will be an Olympic competition in its own right.

Alun James, a sports sponsorship expert and managing director of consultancy firm Four Communications told CNBC via telephone: "Both skateboarding and surfing clearly show the IOC's attempt to appeal to a millennial audience. The sports are lifestyle-oriented, as well as very dramatic and visual, which would have influenced the decision to include them."

Sports climbing

Athletes climb at the Sports Lab of the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China on August 17, 2014.
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images

Three types of climbing events are to be included: Lead, speed and bouldering. Climbing has enjoyed a growing international profile in recent years, and was a demonstration sport at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.

Rob Adie, competitions and climbing walls officer at the British Mountaineering Council told CNBC via telephone that, "climbing is popular in Europe, but it's also huge in Asia, with China and Japan (is) also very into the sport."


Japan's Yuji Shimamoto (R) and his compatriot Kembu Iriki (L) fight during the men's final of the 11th World Karate Championship in Tokyo on November 1, 2015.
Kazuhiro Nogi | AFP | Getty Images

"One of clear trends of the Olympic selection was sports that are attractive to the domestic market. Karate is obviously very Japanese in its orientation, but the sport may have to lobby hard to remain beyond 2020," James at Four Communications told CNBC.

Karate joins judo, its fellow Japanese martial art, which is already part of the Olympics.


A softball player from Italy in action during third day of the IX World Games on July 27, 2013 in Cali, Colombia.
Luis Ramirez | LatinContent | Getty Images

Also part of the Japan-focused trend with the sport being huge in the country. James told CNBC that Japan is probably the sport's second-biggest market.

New to Rio 2016: Rugby sevens

Alice Richardson in action during the Great Britain Rugby 7's training session at Cruzeiro FC on August 1, 2016 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
Alex Livesey | Getty Images

"Global participation has already doubled since the vote in 2009 (to include rugby sevens in the Rio Games), with women's participation increasing by five times." Bernard Lapasset, the chairman of World Rugby, a governing body for rugby union, said in an online press release.

According to World Rugby, 7.2 million people now play the game across the federation's 120 national member unions.

New to Rio 2016: Golf

Justin Rose after his final put at the 113th U.S. Open.
Getty Images

James at Four Communications told CNBC that golf is one of the "most international sports, though ironically it's not too popular in Brazil."

He added that the sport has been struggling for numbers, which may be linked to Nike's decision Thursday to stop selling golf equipment due to falling sales.

Nonetheless, in the build up to Rio 2016, the International Golf Federation has helped to launch Rio StreetGolf, a social project that involves using adapted equipment to make the sport possible in any urban environment.

Not picked for the team: Cricket

Sachin Tendulkar of India raises his bat on scoring his century during the Group B ICC World Cup Cricket match between India and South Africa on March 12, 2011, in Nagpur, India.
Getty Images

Cricket is considered by many to be the most common spectator sport in the world, after soccer. This is largely due to its popularity in the densely populated Indian subcontinent, though the sport is a big hitter across Commonwealth countries.

As to its exclusion from the Olympics, James say: "The size of the Indian market distorts viewing figures." "Practical issues also need to be considered: The sport takes a long time to play and requires large grounds," he added.

Not picked for the team: Squash

Cameron Pilley of Australia competes against Gregory Gaultier of France during the men's final of the PSA Dubai World Series Finals on May 28, 2016 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Francois Nel | Getty Images

Though squash is included in the Commonwealth Games, Pan-American Games and Asia Games, it has not been selected as an event in recent Olympics, despite campaigns for entry.

Not picked for the team: Chess

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (L) and Magnus Carlsen (R) are seen at the 2015 World Chess Rapid and Blitz Championship on October 12, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.
Sebastian Reuter | Getty Images for World Chess by Agon Limited

A sporting activity for the mind, the World Chess Federation has continuously lobbied for the IOC recognized sport to be included in various Olympic Games, even introducing drug testing for its competitors to comply with IOC rules. Chess was a demonstration sport at the Sydney 2000 Games.