Rock Climbing in the Olympics

Rock Climbing In The Olympics 2020: Facts And Information

Will Rock Climbing be in the Olympics 2020?

After successive attempts for the International Olympics Committee (IOC) to sanction climbing as a competing sport in the Olympics, climbing enthusiasts finally had their way in May 2018. It will make its first debut in Tokyo 2020.

Ever since then, avid climbers from almost every corner of the world have been preparing for the historic event. The final competitors who’ll make history with qualifications completed as the first Olympics climbing medalists have been confirmed.

But lots of uncertainty shrouds rock climbing in the Olympics, as enthusiasts struggle to find answers regarding the format in which the sport will take place, the scoring system, difficulty of the climbing routes, and so many other details.

We look at these questions and provide answers in the fact and information article about rock climbing in the Olympics.

Basic Information on Rock Climbing in the Olympics 2020


The 2021 Summer Olympics Games will begin on the 23rd of July and end on the 8th of August. Within this duration, climbing and the numerous events in the games will be played. The event will begin with the male qualification rounds and end with the women’s final.


The climbing event is slated to be held at the Aomi Urban Sports Park in Tokyo, Japan.

Participants for Rock Climbing in the Olympics

A total of 40 climbers, split evenly for male and female genders, will compete in the climbing event. All will compete in three climbing disciplines; lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing.

Climbing Disciplines

The format in which the first climbing event ever held in the Olympics Games will follow has received interest in the climbing community. Three disciplines, lead climbing, bouldering, and speed climbing, each regarded as separate but mandatory rounds, will be the formats in which the event will compete.

It’s safe to call it a triathlon event. The format is not entirely new to climbers, as it was first tested at the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics. The format is also quite similar to the combined event at the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) tournaments. 

Though it may seem like most climbers are familiar with the format, the reality is quite different. Combining these three disciplines will not just test a climber’s wits but also his endurance.

It also levels the playing field, as most climbers often specialize in a particular climbing discipline. The inclusion of speed climbing, which most professional climbers are not used to, further sets the bar higher.

Several climbers have expressed displeasure over the format, especially the inclusion of speed climbing. 

IN AN INTERVIEW WITH CLIMBING MAGAZINE, renowned US climber Lynn Hill said, “That is like asking a middle-distance runner to compete in the sprint. Speed climbing is a sport in our sport.”

Adam Ondra, who certainly would be at the center of attention in Tokyo, says, “I think speed climbing is an artificial discipline.”

Shauna Coxsey of Britain told Olympics News that the inclusion of speed climbing in the format is “a bit like asking Usain Bolt to run a marathon and then do the hurdles.”

All this makes it inevitable that climbing enthusiasts will have a lovely time, watching how every climber tussle it out to leave Tokyo with a medal.

Explained below is how each climbing discipline will be undertaken.

Speed Climbing

Rock Climbing in the Olympics
Speed climbing involves two competing climbers ascending a climbing route in the fastest time possible. (Credit: Henning Schlottmann/Wikimedia Commons)

Climbing will begin with speed climbing as it requires swiftness than bouldering and lead climbing. Climbers will have to ascend a 15m climbing wall separated into two identical routes.

The climbing route has been the same since Jacky Godoffe, a French climber, designed it in the early 2000s. It features 20 handholds and 11 footholds.

The route has been rated 5.10b, which is relatively easy compared to the routes most climbers have ascended. 

But simplicity isn’t the issue, speed is, but thanks to the fact that the routes are exact, climbers will ascend through memorized techniques mastered through several hours of practice.

To complete the climb, climbers would have to ascend to the top of the route and hit a buzzer. It takes an experienced climber 30 seconds to finish the climb, but experts do it as much as 10 seconds.

As most climbers are out to win in the Olympics, you can expect the world speed climbing record of 5.48s and 6.995s for females to be broken.


Rock Climbing in the Olympics
Bouldering is the first stage for beginners that wants to venture into rock climbing. (Credit: Skitterphoto/Pexels)

After completing the challenging speed climbing, climbers can heave a sigh of relief as they return to familiar grounds, this time bouldering. While being familiar with this climbing discipline can be an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage.

Unlike speed climbing, where the climbing routes remain unchanged, bouldering routes are changeable. A climber’s experience and problem-solving skills help him successfully climb the route in the quickest time.

Every climber will be safely isolated before climbing the boulder route. Climbers have much as 4 minutes to attempt to ascend a boulder route. When the 4 minutes elapses, he moves on to the next route.

The final round will see climbers ascend as much as three routes. Even if climbers fail to reach the top of a route, getting to a hold midway called a zone gets the climber credited.

The difficulty of the boulder routes will not be designated as the usual V-scale in the Olympics. This is due to various factors such as the ticking clock and crowd cheers, which could inhibit the climber’s performance. 

But, while route difficulty will be unknown, you can be sure it’ll test the climber’s abilities. A climber’s standing on the leaderboard depends on how many routes he manages to ascend ultimately.

The total number of routes completely climbed, and the total number of zones reached will also determine a climber’s standing on the leaderboard.

Lead Climbing

Rock Climbing in the Olympics
Lead climbing is one climber who has to take the lead while the other climbers follow. (Credit: Pixabay)

The last climbing discipline to compete will be lead climbing, which bears a significant difference from the other two disciplines. Unlike speed climbing and bouldering, climbers would be equipped with a climbing rope and a belayer.

Should a climber fall, the belayer will arrest the fall midway. Climbers would have to climb as high as possible in this discipline and score based on how many scored handholds they reach. 

The climbing route may feature 40 or 60 handholds, with each holds accounting for one point. A competitor who manages to reach 30 handholds before falling will have 30 points, and it goes for other climbers.

The climbing route’s difficulty would not be rated with the Yosemite Decimal System for the same reason as the boulder route will not be graded. The problem solving involved is enough challenge to test a climber’s strength. 

Climbers also have to clip the rope into every quickdraw, as skipping any quickdraw will result at the end of a climber’s climbing attempt. Scoring in this section is based on detailed observation.

Scorers will have to be sure the climber firmly grips a handhold before awarding full points. Touching a handhold could result in partial scoring. 

Climbers can be disqualified by touching an “out of bound” section of the route or grabbing the quickdraw. This makes it challenging and exciting to watch as climbers battle these rules and routes to emerging the winner.


After each climbing event, the competitors would be ranked in various positions, i.e., 1st, 2nd, 3rd… e.t.c.

In determining the overall winner, each competitor’s position in all three events will be multiplied, with the competitor with the lowest multiplied score emerging as the gold medalist.

Suppose competitor A places 3rd in speed climbing, 1st in bouldering, and 5th in lead climbing. In that case, such a competitor’s overall score will be 15(3 x 1 x 5 = 15).

If another competitor, competitor B scored 2nd in speed climbing, 3rd in bouldering, and 3rd in lead climbing, such competitor’s overall score would be 12(2 x 3 x 2) = 12.

In the overall result, competitor B will have an overall performance than competitor A. If competitor B’s overall score happens to be the lowest of all the competitors’ scores, he emerges the gold medal winner. 

This scoring format makes it essential for climbers to try their possible best in every discipline and not just in those they are specialized. 

Competitor, A performance in the hypothetical match stated above shows he specializes in bouldering. But his performance in speed climbing and lead climbing, though not bad made him, made him miss out on the gold medal.

On the other hand, Competitor B went for the overall approach, performing evenly well in all three disciplines. This thus puts him in a better position to outperform other competitors who may be better than him in individual disciplines.

This is the sort of calculations that climbers in the forthcoming Olympics will have on their minds. 

Claiming first place in all events is the sure way to claim gold, but due to all climbers’ different abilities, that may be a long shot, so for now, all-round may seem to be the best. Come July 2021; we’ll see how these climbers perform.


Please let us know your thoughts on our Rock climbing in the Olympics facts & information in the comments section below. Also, see these Red Rocks Climbing Information: Everything You Need To Know, Ultimate Speed Climbing Guide & Everything You Need To Know, and 10 Best Rock Climbers in the World.