Tag Archives: Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020

10 August, 2021

Official Glam

It’s Thursday 29th July, 2021. An San of Korea had already won two gold medals in mixed team and women’s team. She’s paraded through the mixed zone, the labyrinth of rails that athletes must enter to speak to the media after their matches. (The rules for athletes are, you have to go in there, but you don’t have to say anything.) One of the journalists asks her a question, and is instantly cut off by An San’s coach, Park Chaesoon. You know the guy. Looks like this.

Almost overnight, a story has blown up about a deluge of online hate aimed at her and focusing on, of all things, her short haircut. It had snuck out via Korean blogs and social media and reached one of the journalists who had camped out in Yumenoshima Park for the week. Question squashed, Park and An make a quick exit.

It was a story that touched upon many things, including some particularly creaking attitudes at home, but apparently enough trolls had marked An out as a ‘feminist’, because of the way she cut her hair. How many people did this involve? It’s difficult to say, but it involved an online group called (in translation) ‘The New Men’s Solidarity Network’, among others, whose fragile attack troops deluged the bulletin boards of the KAA and elsewhere, demanding that she return the two gold medals she had already won.

Now it’s Friday morning, and An San is fresh from her first match, demolishing Deepika Kumari six-nil – just as she did at the Tokyo test event in 2019, with the same scoreline.

Jang Min Hee: cheering mode

Once again, she goes through the press paddock. The same Korean journalist who asked the question last night and many more pack the rail. Chaesoon stands right next to her, arms folded, glaring, then loudly proclaims to the press that his charge will not answer ‘irrelevant’ questions. The World Archery head of media and the venue media manager line up behind him. Chaesoon stares down the rail of journalists. A few tentative questions, and she’s off to lunch.

The journalists backed down, but it seems to reinforce the story’s importance. That evening, dozens of Korean press and photographers jammed the venue for the denouement of the women’s individual competition. 

After her spectacular individual victory, against the toughest opponents, she visibly rolls her eyes before facing the mandatory broadcast media in their strict pecking order, and finally dragged by Chaesoon through the throng to sit at a press conference table in the venue media centre next to Lucilla Boari and Elena Osipova, bronze and silver, neither of whom look like they can believe their luck. (Boari is actually smiling). Then the safety net briefly fails; some random journalist who didn’t get the memo asks her a question about what she would say to the people who have insulted her online. 

The assembled media – the ones in the know – perk up. The journo stands back, and a smiling volunteer sprays and disinfects the microphone. There is a moment in the air. The Korean coaches look aghast, and one motions towards An as if to say “you don’t have to answer that.”

But almost immediately, in a few clipped words, she answers: “I will not like to talk about anything but the competition and my skills and techniques.” An stares back at the room. Outside of this air-conditioned tent, in the real world, she is becoming the most famous person in her home country that evening.

Not long afterwards, none other than the President of South Korea described her as “the pride of the nation” the same evening, and went as far as to say: “Sometimes we have to fight over expectations and discrimination. Sometimes we only see the results, but every step of the process is never easy.” If it’s a story that the president has got a handle on, it’s a story.

Unravelling the rest of this tale, whatever it actually is, has been more tricky. In Korea, as in many other places, there has been a small sea change in attitudes and a rise in feminism, driven as ever by younger people.

Much of the internet warrior wrath centres on the use of some obscure hashtags.
The two phrases that apparently proved some kind of misandry are “ung aeng ung” – an onomatopoeia that meaning unintelligible or nonsensical and “5.5 trillion”, meaning a deliberate exaggeration.

There are many more, and many more people arguing over whether a particular phrase indicates ‘feminism’, or just being a modern person on the internet using neologisms and buzzwords. (The fact that An San went to an all-women’s university has also aroused male suspicion, even if it’s the same archery hothouse institution that Ki Bo Bae and Choi Misun both attended.)

An enormous counter-effort supporting An San against the more knuckle-dragging elements of the internet blew up and furiously phoned the KAA demanding they protect An San, hero of the nation, from all this. Mercifully, she has kept quiet and let everyone else do the talking.

It was an oblique reflection of the key overarching theme of Tokyo 2020, that of the mental health of Olympic athletes; quietly an issue for many decades, and now fully in the mainstream. It touched upon societal changes, the power and reach of social media, the moving of goalposts, and the expectations for public figures.

The biggest story of all from Tokyo 2020 was that of American gymnastics megastar Simone Biles pulling out of multiple events citing mental health issues as well as the ‘twisties’ – essentially the gymnast’s equivalent of target panic, with much more dangerous potential consequences.

That’s right. The biggest story of the Olympics was an athlete choosing not to compete. Nothing else really came close. The predictable reactions from the American media ran the gamut from string-her-up-the-traitor to supporting-you-all-the-way-Simone. It fed the news maw, hungry for the meta-story, even as it frustrated audiences and the networks, expecting a ratings bonanza from the biggest star of all. (Although in gymnastics it allowed a new hero, Sunisa Lee, to emerge.)

We always demand more. And the cycle feeds itself. As the Korean National Press Labor Union put it:

“… there are a lot of articles that the media spread about the current [An San] case as a conflict of opinion. And I want to ask if these articles are really worthwhile as news, and some of the articles posted on the Internet community are not true, but only hate and sarcasm against women and feminism. As these articles became news articles, related posts in the community were amplified even more, and a vicious cycle that quickly led to mass sending of articles citing other hateful remarks occurred, urging the media to pay attention.”

Welcome to 2021, where the real world, the media, and the social media churn in endless depressing loops. There may be more to find out about An San, now examined as closely as any K-pop star for signs and signifiers, every online move future and past scrutinised and discussed. (If you’re interested, try diving into this in translation).

The former president of World Archery, Francesco Gnecchi-Ruscone (back when it was still called FITA) described a Korean women’s team who “lived in a sort of convent-like seclusion” after a 1980s World Championship. This is manifestly no longer the case. The only thing that is abundantly clear about An San is that she is a thoroughly modern person; connected, thoughtful, part of society – as much as a professional sportsperson can be.

The tale goes that she insisted on an archery program for girls being started at her school, when it was intended only for boys. Since her international debut in women’s recurve at the Berlin World Cup in 2019 (she won) the immense natural talent was obvious. She also won the Tokyo test event held here in 2019. She was tested harder than any other Korean woman has been tested on the way to the title, and passed.

At every competition, I always have a favourite pic of Dean Alberga’s. This time it came early, at official practice:

Pic: World Archery

The day before the ranking round that would set An San on the path to three golds, it told a tale of handing over, of utter badassery, of the threat of the new girl, of something in the air. It captured something changing. An San would not only destroy the field, she would destroy her teammates too. In a couple of days time Kang and Jang would both also be gold medalists, but by the end of the week, they seemed almost like also-rans. An San turned up and was just cooler than them, and indeed, than pretty much everybody else.

Of course the three of them together were going to win the women’s team event. I wrote a few months ago about the only chance that any other squad – we presumed it would be Chinese Taipei – would have to beat the Koreans, now almost on the longest medal streak in Olympic history. The only way was to be a confident, bulldozing, dangerous second place, terrifying the other side of the bracket. Chinese Taipei’s women, so confident in Den Bosch, simply didn’t show up, qualifying in seventh place. From the ranking round on, you knew it was done. The psychological road was unimpeded. Korea would never be beaten on the stage, but they might conspire to lose it themselves in their heads before going on. That wasn’t now going to happen. The battles were for silver and bronze. When the three Korean women were together, they looked light years ahead of the rest. With the exception of An San, individually, they looked distinctly vulnerable.

Jang Min Hee

Watch again, if you can, the exit of Jang Min Hee of Korea – the most mysterious member of the team – at the hands of Miki Nakamura of Japan, in a strangely vapid second round encounter in a lull in the wearisomely long action on Wednesday.

Jang seems empty, and tense. The wind whirls a little. Hair flies. Nakamura stares into the back of Jang’s head like she is trying to bore a hole in it. The explosive qualities of her shot seemed to have gone. She looked horribly, painfully average. Nakamura wasn’t amazing. But you sensed where it was going from the first set.

JPN shirt, KOR badge

What happened? We won’t know. Jang Min Hee walked into the press mixed zone, bowed her head, burst into tears and walked out again. (A reminder: the rules are you have to walk in there at least, although you’re not obliged to actually say anything. But sometimes, you don’t really need to.)

Jang Min Hee – never to be seen again, is my guess. I really wonder if that is the end, if she will be like Choi Hyeonju – popping up out of nowhere, getting the team gold, bombing out of the individuals at the same Games, realising it’s never going to get much better than that, and packing it in. Jang’s deeply weird technique, apparently requiring wrist support (not required when she was a junior) must of course have been good enough to get her onto the team. Against the formal simplicity of An and the strength of Kang, it looked amateurish.

Finally, to Kang “The Destroyer” Chae Young. She never looked comfortable in the individual competition, at any point, even against the relative cannon fodder she had to face the first two times out. She looked pale, wan, and drawn. Her shooting was indifferent. It was obvious that Osipova was going to cause her trouble in the third round. She did. She *ahem* destroyed her.

Kang Chae Young faces the media

About a minute after this picture was taken, Kang also broke down in tears and was helped out by her coaches. Not happy then. I mean, she even looked pretty unhappy when facing the Korean media, as the usual conquering heroes, at Incheon airport on the journey home:

Perhaps to the women’s team, the gold is considered manifest destiny, something you get merely for showing up. The real competition is for the individual gold; the one that may see you elevated to the pantheon of Korean archery goddesses. (The goddesses that were not only watching, but commentating.)

L-R Ki Bo Bae, Chang Hyejin, and Park Sung Hyun, all individual gold medallists, commentating for Korean networks KBS, MBC and SBS in Tokyo respectively.

I was also genuinely intrigued to find out along the way that all three of the women’s team this year apparently identify as Buddhists – as well as Kim Je Deok.

진천 선수촌 법당에서 지도법사 스님과 함께 한 강채영 선수(우측 오른쪽에서 4번째)
Kang Chae Young, fourth from right, at the Jincheon Training Centre athlete’s ‘village hall’. Source: BBS

Around a quarter of the Korea population are Buddhists, and around 70 of the 237 athletes going from Korea identified as such. You think you know these people, even a little. You don’t know them at all.


It began with bureaucracy, shuffling documents in a long, brightly-lit airline terminal at Haneda airport.

A three hour process, politely coerced from station to station across echoing halls, sleepily handing over document after document proving you are who you say you are and you are free from the plague, smiling faces behind masks, computers tapped, small bows from helpful volunteers, all the machinery of overmanned Japanese protocol and administration.

No other country on earth could have done the process better. It could have been more efficient, more digital, more informed. But it wouldn’t be Japan. Of course, this non-indignity led to a small handful of witless commentators such as a USA wrestling coach doing a “your papers please” comparison to Nazi Germany, and who barely kept her accreditation as a result.

Journalists are used to writing about the interface between the Games and the host city, ruminating on how welcoming the local public might be, and being free to flaneur about the place and be impressed or unimpressed about what has been laid on for the Big Dance.

This year, as soon as you stepped off the plane, it was made abundantly clear to the media and all other overseas visitors that their freedom had taken a back seat to public health concerns. This didn’t stop certain myopic outlets whining at length at the appalling disrespect that one of their team had been confined to quarters for a close contact:

The reason why they aren’t the ‘Coronavirus Games’, then or now or after, is because the Japanese government came up with a vast and complicated solution to the problem– in fact, a pioneering effort as to how to keep something like this safe in the future. And it worked. It doesn’t stop the whining beforehand, including the British race walker who complained about the ‘prison-like’ conditions and the food in Sapporo, a few hundred miles north. He ended up placing a disastrous 25th, but not before being widely mocked by Japanese Twitter users, with comments including “We’re not going to be lectured to by a Brit about shit food.”

there was a lot of this

Every day, we spit into a tube. We then hand it to someone unlucky enough to have the role of ‘Covid Liason Officer’, gathering the group’s sputum. They then hand off to some poor bugger who will take charge of hundreds of tubes of spit and eventually take them to a lab somewhere where some kind spit-dipper will check tens of thousands of us, the closest link, for the plague. Every one of the 13 days I am in Tokyo, I am tested for coronavirus, for free. (The three days of testing required beforehand to let me into the country cost £240, and the pointless unsupervised Day 2 / Day 8 tests I have to do on returning to the UK cost £160).

I also have to take my temperature every day beforehand for two weeks, which I do dutifully, and take it again every day when I am in Japan, all of which has to be entered into an app on my phone on pain of a furious reminder from the Covid Liason Officer. This app also forces you to answer a number of questions, which are easier to breeze past, even if expressing the required millilitres of gob into the tube never gets more enjoyable.

I wish I did

The rest of the COVID precautions are less intrusive; a gun temperature check to enter the breakfast wing of the hotel, several mandatory squirts of hand sanitiser here and there, and of course, wearing masks everywhere at all times. Pretty much everyone I see, press, staff and athletes happily complies – except for a very well-known older member of the Italian archery delegation who has his mask perpetually round his chin, even on the TV footage. (Just once, I headed downstairs from my hotel room to the vending machine on the fifth floor and forgot my mask, only realising once I’d got there. On my way back, I only saw one other person, a Japanese lady, who scurried past me with alarm in her eyes. I’m still feeling bad about it now.)

Our hotel, for its part, has instituted a kind of apartheid system for its overseas guests. We eat breakfast in one of two echoing ballrooms, our tables spaced off with perspex. Japanese guests eat in the restaurant. The hotel has a pool and a gym and various other amenities; all of which are off-limits to the Olympic gaijin. The hotel bar shuts at 7pm each night by government edict, long before we get back from the venue.

the only bar in town

Apart from the lobby, in the hotel we don’t mix with anyone – not even ourselves. Dinner in the evening is a lonely meal ordered via an app, picked up at the front door, and eaten in the hotel room.

Uber Eats has been one of the big hospitality beneficiaries of Tokyo. The app is in English, but most of the menus are not, so ordering anything other than pizza requires a laborious process of screenshotting a hopeful looking menu and running it through the camera function on Google Translate.

Eventually, someone brings round food on a bike. It’s still telling me their names. Thank you Hirohito. Thank you Tetsuo. No, thank you, Yamato. Yes, I will press this button and you will get a tip. The constant stream of bike couriers bearing takeaways combined with the language barrier means that one night, starving, I get back to my room and realised I have picked up someone else’s order. I take it straight back down and tell the concierge and hope someone didn’t go hungry that night.

We are not allowed to go anywhere or do anything. We are not allowed to walk down the street, go into a shop or order a drink. We eat, sleep and do our jobs. Even as, for the world’s media, the world is changing. Half a million people like An San’s Instagram post on her gold medal within an hour. She’s good enough to tell stories on her own:

Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/CSCKM0QBob0/

Media, including the sacred broadcast footage, is violently respun into memes and jokes, which get more eyeballs than the actual competition in many countries. The social media whirl doesn’t reflect talent or results though: An San’s pile of followers pales besides Valentina Acosta, the well-connected ‘influencer’ archer from Colombia, who managed to gain 1.6 million followers, a 600% increase, during the Olympics without winning a single match.

It’s also clear that there is considerable duplication of media work; many technical roles are undemanding, and digital changes mean that a lot of media gathering could be very different indeed – and handled with considerably fewer people onsite. And increasingly, the athletes are telling the stories themselves, and the gatekeepers and intermediaries are less powerful. We’re here, but do we need to be?


Press tribune panorama, everyone up here gets their own little TV screen

The biggest crime of all: no spectators. What a beautiful, beautiful field. What a well-considered, tidy expanse of sporting venue, with a wide promenade deck at the back, twenty feet up, that looked like something off a fancy ship. The Yumenoshima Park finals arena was easily the greatest Olympic archery venue yet, perhaps bar the minimal beauty of the Panathenaic Stadium. As part of the ‘look’, the careful branding that all Olympic venues go through and designed to show up behind athletes for any particular camera angle, the upper part of the temporary stand seemed to rise up at the corners, almost like a classical bit of Japanese architecture.

Golden Temple at Tōshōdai-jiNara, Nara Built in 8th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons

For a temporary structure, made mostly of scaffolding, it surpassed its function. It felt like somewhere permanent, even if it was only a place of brief communion, with athletes, officials and volunteers all scuttling about in a borrowed space trying to put on the big show; and the coaches and journos and photographers all sneaking off and finding their special secret spot to have a smoke.

I wrote before the Games on the strange and hypocritical decision to not have spectators, even as other Japanese sports venues continued to let them in. It was manifestly clear that there was all-but-zero risk to a masked, well-spaced, well-marshalled audience in an outdoor venue like this. Although, I can understand that perhaps the situation was less clear a few months out, and deciding to fill Olympic venues on a case-by-case risk assessment basis would have been a nightmare on many fronts.

All Olympics are a parade of military-style acronyms, in this case, on the front of the venue media centre. ‘E’ is the journalist designation, further divided into specialisms. As the media centre isn’t an ‘access control point’, i.e. there’s nobody on the door checking things, and it has air conditioning and coffee, pretty much anybody and everybody piled in here regardless.

The other joy was that we were actually in a park, built by the water on a vast pile of decades of Tokyo’s rubbish, with greenery and trees to absorb some of the ferocious heat. The continuous background noise generated by the cicadas, that pudgy, noisy insect, was only just inaudible on the TV coverage. For everybody there, it was a continuous white-noise reality. Cicadas like to scream at the hottest part of the day. Like this:

cicada? I hardly knew her!

On the branches, they were well camouflaged. An unluckier one I found on the ground revealed an absolutely exquisite golden wing structure, like a piece of fancy jewellery.

oh that pretty

“Everybody be cool.”

I don’t know what this means
modern problems require modern solutions
Lei Chien Ying
UKR supporting

“Dude, she’s checking you out.”
“Dude, I mean it. She’s totally checking you out.”
JPN cheer

Japan cheer politely, enthusiastically. I’m in the spectator stands for Furukawa’s bronze, and it’s polite applause all the way. Not even a ‘whoo’. I’m also in the stands for Osipova vs An, and three Russians are making as much noise as a twenty strong Korean delegation put together. A masked Galsan Bazarzhapov bangs the metal floor of the stand with an umbrella and his foot hard enough that the whole thing shakes. Almost like there’s malice there.

One of those Russians was my favourite champion of all, Ksenia Perova, who after her final individual match walks off without entering the mixed zone, looking pissed off. She is returned to do her mandated press duties by Vladimir Esheev (bronze medal, 1988) and proceeds to open up fully. In a quiet, halting voice, she says:

I like shootoffs. They give me an adrenaline rush, and I feel the growth of responsibility.  Today, it wasn’t successful because I couldn’t handle the mental pressure because the opening is very strong. She put a lot of effort into this. And I think she deserves to go to the final round and I will be rooting, not only for our team members but also for her. 

Three minutes ago, everything ended for me. And now I feel relief and I’m very tired, and I cannot think about anything except going home and meeting my family. 

The preparations for this Olympics were very long and not easy. I had problems with my shoulder and I overcame so many things to to perform here. So now I can thing only about relaxing. I have plans to take a vacation. I haven’t been home since we 3rd of March. That’s why I want to go home. I have a daughter, a husband, relatives. They are very supportive. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. They respect my choice. They don’t say anything bad. They cheer me up. 

Are you going to quit? “I’m 32 years old, I haven’t decided completely, but I’m thinking about that. I’m taking a break, then I’ll decide what I’m gonna do. I need to take a rest after five years of work. Paris? I don’t I don’t know. I don’t have certain plans for that. My shoulder is a problem. I’ll look at the pros and cons. It’s not only my decision but also my team.” 

(Given that I once asked the Russian women’s team ‘who was in charge?’ and they all nervously pointed at Perova, this comment is perhaps not 100% accurate.)

“I’m doing this from when I was 11 years old and I cannot imagine doing anything else. You imagine yourself beyond the sport. This is my life, archery for many many years, and I don’t have any other business. So if I started something else, I would need to start from the beginning.”

Are you happy with how it has gone? “Yes, I think it was successful. I’ve been working at it for five years, I had all the problems with my health so that’s why I thought I wouldn’t even get to the Olympic Games because at one point I couldn’t even draw the bow. I have suffered and endured all the preparations to get to Tokyo. That’s why I am satisfied with the results. ” 

“I don’t feel any regrets. I don’t feel an emptiness that I lost, like I used to feel before when I really wanted to win. The silver in the team rounds gave us some confidence that we could compete with the Koreans. I love the Russian gymnastics team, they’re from Yekaterinburg, so I’m rooting for them. I had goosebumps watching them, because they did such a great job. The ROC wins because it has such strong athletes.”

There is much to say about disappointment, and the darkness that comes at the end of an Olympic cycle. However much you know how well you did or didn’t do, however much your peers and your coaches and your federation know how well you did, the world sees only one thing: medals. Alejandra Valencia brought back a bronze medal to Mexico, one of just a handful the country won. As the plane landed, they let her in the cockpit and gave her a water cannon salute. One or two fractionally better arrows than someone else, and you get a water cannon salute. Because medal. It’s not fair. (It’s not. It really isn’t.)

“I don’t think I deserve to lose. Yeah, I was just unlucky against my rival and she’s really good. And when I look at the group, my group was the hardest. I just can’t understand why it’s happening like this.”

Yasemin Anagoz


As to what impact archery made; it looked better on the TV than it did in Rio, that’s for sure; cleaner, tighter, great shots, better background. OBS seemed to have upped their game across all sports. But archery was a pretty minor part of the wider Olympic narrative this time, especially with four of the five golds going in the usual direction.

To the rest of the world, Korea won again, even if the undercard fights kept the archery cognoscenti interested and the men’s title went way off script. Archery did its thing, while the rest of the world’s attention was on Simone Biles and a lady crying on a horse. Even An San barely got mentioned in the write-ups afterwards, although someone decided to add her to this boss poster for France 2024:


The problem.. isn’t so much the Games as the series of bewildering events currently masquerading as “reality”. In the middle of which the Olympics is somehow still happening, and happening in a way that takes us pretty much off the map.

Barney Ronay, The Guardian

The Japanese public, for their part, seemed to gradually warm to the event, helped by an avalanche of home team medals across multiple sports right from the off. The host nation always does well at a home Games (just automatically qualifying for every sport has more to do with it than you might think), but even Japan sometimes seemed surprised at just how well they were doing against the usual big beasts.

Press photos show the Japanese public peering into venues through fences, not invited to the party that they paid for. Absolutely everybody I met was courteous and welcoming, without exception.

Kisik Lee: on his last Olympics. Probably.

The successful execution has to be measured against a backdrop of massively rising COVID cases in Tokyo and the rest of Japan (as of this writing), even if it seems increasingly clear that this is not directly connected to the Olympics. The Delta variant is not interested in local political concerns and all variants have apparently been held at bay by the massive system designed to insulate the overseas contingent from the Japanese public. It’s clear that the Olympics was not a ‘super-spreader event’, despite that phrase being parroted by dozens of moronic journalists in the buildup. In the end there were 430 positive cases within the bubble, but almost all of them were Japanese residents; volunteers and contractors. The wall had held, and then some.

What seems more reasonable to blame on the Olympics is the bad example set by insisting on it going ahead; and having thousands of people pitch up and TV screens full of athletes hugging. The Dominic Cummings effect; if they’re doing it, why can’t we? Tokyo is particularly weary of lockdowns, and there were plenty of pics of packed bars in Shibuya and Shinjuku ignoring the bafflingly voluntary ‘state of emergency’ measures. (The classic cool Tokyo bar: small, tightly packed, smoky and low-ceilinged seems custom-designed to spread airborne viruses.)

the only compound you’re ever going to see at the Olympics

Much has been made of the supposedly immutable Japanese cultural norms that emphasise the group over the individual, and how this has helped the country and the COVID figures during the pandemic. But these norms are changing; people, especially in cities, now seem more willing to step out of line. Among younger people in particular, the Japanese social contract is fragmenting. If we can have an Olympics, why aren’t I allowed a drink after work?

The wider impact will be felt in due course. For the all-important American TV ratings, it was a disaster for NBC, the US host broadcaster. The average ratings for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is about half of what the 2016 Rio Olympics brought in and barely a third of the viewers that watched London 2012. NBC were forced to give away advertising space for free to clients, to make up the viewership shortfall.

The 13-hour time-zone difference between Tokyo and the East Coast did not help, nor did the programming being fractured across a bewildering variety of channels. The lack of Simone Biles, who was expected to smash events night after night for a week, but of course decided not to, didn’t help viewing figures either, nor did the early bath for tennis superstar Naomi Osaka or the non-appearance of basketball star LeBron James, among others.

In the UK, the rights deal with Discovery+ / Eurosport, despite being made over five years ago, caught out sports fans who were expecting the full panoply of red-button sports on the BBC, which only had sub-licensed rights this time around. The BBC was restricted to just two live sports at any one time, and focused almost exclusively on GB medal chances, for which it was criticised.

Despite this, it looks like this split model may be here to stay, as the viewing figures were healthy for the BBC with significantly reduced costs. Apparently around a third of homes had some Eurosport access as part of various packages with Sky and others. But there was no question about who had the bigger reach: the men’s 100m final attracted 5.1 million TV viewers on the BBC, but just 100,000 tuned into Eurosport 1, according to BARB figures.

Source: The Guardian

It seems increasingly likely that if you want your wideband fill of the Games in the future, you will have to fork out for Eurosport, and in the UK, the chances of you catching archery on free-to-air TV, or indeed anything where there isn’t a significant British medal chance, is not good. Your chances of seeing a smaller sport and thinking “I’d like a go at that”, are vanishing fast.


Finally, it’s a long-established journalistic tradition to try and nail down the ‘meaning’ of the Olympics. Sure, I’ll give it a go. Broadly, it was a Games that held a mirror up to the times, rather than set an agenda for the future like Tokyo 1964; the symbolic Games of a nation emerging from post-war destruction to take its place in the world.

Of course, Japan didn’t need to emerge into the world in 2021; it is the fourth largest economy on the planet and its technology and culture are found in every corner of the globe. It was hoping instead to be a ‘Games of reconstruction’, after the Fukushima disaster. Instead, they ended up with… something else. The damned if they do, damned if they don’t Olympics, maybe.

The relentless media cycle shone an uncomfortable light on some sports, such as the grotesque incident in the modern pentathlon competition where the randomly-assigned horse for a leading competitor refused to jump for its rider, and was then apparently punched by a coach. Endlessly repeated and repackaged, you could sympathise with both rider and horse, but then ask: Why is this ludicrous, possibly cruel sport even in the Olympics anymore? (Modern pentathlon has long been considered to be first in line for removal from the Games, perhaps this was the death blow.)

The host nation was also forced to grapple with issues of multiculturalism, as it fielded a home team featuring more than three dozen athletes of mixed parentage, including megastar Naomi Osaka.

Ren Hayakawa, the naturalised Japanese Olympic archer who was born and raised in South Korea, said that unlike her older sister who represented Japan in archery at Beijing, she had never experienced discrimination. Hayakawa competed in Tokyo, and won a medal with the Japanese team at London 2012. She told Asahi Shinbum this, which kind of raises other questions:

“In the early days when I competed against South Koreans, I felt really lost and felt pressure. But whenever that happened, my coach would tell me ‘You are doing well. And you are Japanese.’”

There was a lot of focus on stories with LGBTQ+ athletes, including our very own Lucilla Boari, who came out, somewhat unexpectedly, to the Italian media after winning individual bronze. She is not the only gay archer in the professional archery peleton, but she’s certainly the first one to come out at an Olympic Games. It’s perhaps interesting that she felt she was in an atmosphere comfortable enough to do so.

Tokyo 2020 rubbed up against a changing world. Newer stars. Younger. Stranger. More connected. More diverse. Not necessarily fitting into conventional sports star boxes. Sharing gold medals, even. Athletes have emerged from the industrial pressures of Big Sport to decide what their priorities are, and they were led there by the biggest star of all. And all this in spite of a pandemic, and all swirled up by an off-axis, time-shifted news cycle and social media, complete with fake news.

Entire eras had also changed. The men’s 100m final was won by… an Italian. The tonal changes from the Usain Bolt era were remarkable. It felt completely different.

 Who knows, perhaps the 100m is done in some way, the idea of male sprinting power as some kind of register of basic human worth a little absurd, foolish, boomer-ish, old hat… Every 100m race is run against the past to some degree, those glorious, tarnished shadows. And right now that history feels a little distant, a place of juiced-up times and a single outlandish talent. Probably this was always a dream, or at least, never quite the thing it was made to be.

Barney Ronay, The Guardian

Many things, in the glaring, empty light seemed a little bit much. The immense expense, the concrete contracts, the years of effort for just two weeks of action, it all felt a little like something of the past. Wisely, Tokyo 2020 lacked a grandiose opening and closing ceremony, choosing a relatively simple, procedural-focused routine going both in and out. There was no sense of grand finale. It was done, and the IOC and the politicians and the federations and the public all breathed a sigh of relief.

If there was a theme; it was ‘it was tough, but we did it.’ We survived. We got through it. Pandemics, Olympic cycles. We did it, and oh yeah, everything has changed now. Things are different. The Olympics won’t ever quite be the same again.

As for our thing, I got to see it. I got to walk around. I got to watch. It was, for an archery fan, a position of almost unimaginable privilege. I didn’t feel like a journalist anymore. Sorry I couldn’t tell all the stories. There wasn’t room.

I hope I brought you a few fragments of what it was like. It was a competition that deserved more people saying ‘I was there’. Because there was still some magic in the air.

Arigato to all the people who helped me get to Tokyo, and helped me when I was there.

Tokyo 2020: nine days to go

14 July, 2021

As athletes start arriving in Toyko, perhaps you can spare a tiny thought for this man; Kazunori Takishima, who has an Olympic dream of setting a world record of attending the most Olympic events ever. He had spent nearly $40k on a hundred Tokyo 2020 tickets, saving and scheming for years. Of course, he now can’t go to any of them:

And nor can anyone else. Because, on the 8th July a committee decided that no-one would be allowed to attend any Olympic events without accreditation. At a stroke, it destroyed the last hope that this Games would be any kind of ‘normal’. Without fans, it reinforces the feeling that this Games is a contractual obligation. It also risks turning off the casual Olympics fan whose eyeballs ultimately pay for the whole thing via the TV advertising and broadcast revenue.

Fair enough, you might say, given that Tokyo is once again under a state of emergency until the middle of August. But the restrictions are and have been relatively light compared to the lockdowns seen in much else of the Western world. It was hoped that some fans could attend some of the events outside Tokyo – then that idea got squished as well.

Numerous large scale outdoor sporting events have taken place this spring and summer without (apparently) spiking coronavirus cases; the Superbowl, Wimbledon and the European Championships to name but a few (although given the scenes at Wembley on Sunday, the jury is probably still out on what virus-spiking damage a nearly full stadium of Brits can do).

Other sporting events in Japan are going ahead with spectators. J-League football matches are going ahead in other parts of Japan, and playoffs apparently continue throughout the Games. One of the major Sumo tournaments is going on right now, as of this writing, in Nagoya – in a numbers-restricted indoor arena. Another major sumo championships is scheduled for Tokyo in September.

Baseball is going ahead right now, and a situation has arisen with well-known Dominican-Japanese hitter Cristopher Mercedes, who plays for Tokyo team Yomiuri Giants, and who has been named to the Dominican Republic team for the Olympic Games. You can go and see him play with his team in Tokyo this season, but you can’t go and see him play for his country at the Olympics, down the road in Yokohama, in a week or two.

The blanket ban on spectators at all venues seems like it need an explanation, but the organisers would only say that it was a ‘very special’ situation, where crowds would be expected to both socialise and congregate afterwards. This is apparently on the recommendation of the government’s public health adviser Dr. Omi, although the full reasons remain opaque:

Increasingly, it feels like the Japanese government are holding the event at arms length. Opinion polls have consistently shown the public is deeply concerned about holding the games, and a loud media seems to continually suggest that they are inviting people from all over the world to bring variants of the coronavirus to their islands. (The incredibly draconian policies developed to stop this happening do not appear to have made it to the front pages, and a current estimate suggests that 80-90% of the overseas visitors to Japan will be vaccinated, as opposed to around 25% of the Japanese population. It seems to have led to awkward situations like this one.)

The Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga’s handling of the pandemic (including a now-famously slow vaccination rollout) has eroded his public support, and there are leadership races and an election imminent. The government had long seen the Olympics as a chance to display Japan’s recovery from the devastating 2011 earthquake and nuclear crisis. With a pandemic still raging and Japan ‘holding the baby’, it almost feels like it has decided to get the whole thing out of the way as quietly and painlessly as possible with as much support as it can muster.

It should be noted that Monday on Japanese Twitter, the phrase, “Anyone but LDP or Komeito” was trending, referring to voting for any political parties other than the ruling Liberal Democratic Party or their coalition partner, the Komeito, in the coming parliamentary election. It seems that few of the Japanese public are happy about how this year has turned out, but this is where we are at.

The prospect of a ‘ghost’ Games in Tokyo is a dramatic and dark turn in the history of the event. Full venues have been at the centre of all the iconic moments in Olympic history, and who knows what is around the corner.

The Korea Archery Association continues their all-out social media assault; this time forcing the six Olympic athletes through media training, and, for some reason, filming it. All of them look like they’d rather be pulling out their toenails that doing it.

The same video is notable for coach Park Chaesoon’s extraordinary mask chains, which give him an unexpectedly cyberpunk look. Hey, if it works for him. (Lots of other interesting videos here)

An interesting documentary for Olympics fans is coming out in a few days, retelling the story of the ‘Oriental Witches’ of the 1964 Games; one of the canonical tales from that competition. It looks well worth a look:

Finally, YouGov threw up a fascinating tidbit about British people gambling during the Olympics. Archery gets a mention, too.

According to their data, 9% of British adults will place some kind of wager on the Olympics. (I make that around 4.5 million people. Seems like a lot.) Of that number:

Punters appear to be most likely to bet on events such as track and field (49%), football (49%), boxing (31%), tennis (28%), and gymnastics (20%). Other events that will draw gamblers include swimming (18%), basketball (15%), cycling (15%), badminton (8%), diving (7%), weightlifting (6%), table tennis (6%) and volleyball or beach volleyball (6%), archery (3%) and baseball (3%). 

Three percent? I crunch that as 135,000 UK adults will be betting on the archery during the Games? Really? If you’re planning on sticking some money down, let me know…

Tokyo: 17 days to go

5 July, 2021

Reena Parnat just snuck onto the Tokyo roster.

Going through the looking glass again. 500 personnel for the Olympics arrived in Tokyo on the first official day (July 1st), and luckily, not a COVID case has been detected among them.

ITG broke down the key numbers:

“A total of 78,000 people are expected to enter Japan for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This would include 59,000 people for the Olympics, compared to the expected 180,000 from last year. The number will include 23,000 Games-related officials, including from the International Olympic Committee and International Federations. Olympic Broadcast Services representatives and rights-holders account for 17,000 people during the Olympics, with 6,000 members of the media expected. Around 19,000 people are expected for the Paralympic Games, including 9,000 officials, 4,000 for broadcast and 2,000 media.”

That’s a lot of people who you hope have all passed their tests, had their jabs, and not picked up any ‘rona on the plane. But as with the unfortunate guys from Uganda last time, it at least proves that so far the system is working, even if the goal is essentially to isolate the Games as far from the Japanese public as possible.

Where athletes and journos won’t be going. Photo: Unsplash

A senior journo from the Association of International Sports Journalists has pushed back against the particularly draconian measures for the press:

“The people of Japan must not see us as an enemy bringing coronavirus,” Merlo said today at an event marking World Sports Journalists Day.

“We are coming not to destroy, but to bring a message of hope.

“The big danger is that this kind of campaign is putting the foreigners going there as infectors so people will be afraid of us and this can sometimes cause us a problem.”

Merlo described some of the measures as “the most crazy instructions we have had in our lives”.

“It is important we begin to discuss with the organisers in a kind way, because we understand their mind, we understand how difficult it is for them but we have to find a solution together, if possible a human solution because I cannot believe that the hospitality of Japan is this way.

“It is a special occasion but we are not at war.”

Journalists travelling to the Olympics Games will be confined to hotels for the first three days and restricted to a carefully ordained itinerary for the first 14.

“In some ways we are exactly a kind of prisoner at home,” Claimed Merlo.

He also warned: “In some ways, they are asking the population of Japan to spy on everyone.

“This is not acceptable.”

The Tokyo 2020 organisers have also delayed making a decision on whether spectators will be allowed in venues, pending COVID data. (The decision was originally scheduled for today.) There was a plan for a lottery system todetermine which ticketholders can attend the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as sessions in eight sports (not including our thing). Some have suggested up to 40% of sessions would not have spectators. It is not clear which sports will get shafted.

The decision followed the easing of state of emergency measures, with the Japanese Government allowing sporting events to be held with capacities limited to either 50 per cent or a maximum of 10,000 people – but we’re not out of the woods yet. A Games without any spectators whatsoever will be a difficult sell both to the stakeholders and the rest of the world.

The Netherlands Sjef van den Berg has confirmed previous hints that he is set to retire after Tokyo 2020, citing ongoing medical issues and a general dissatisfaction with the life of a professional archer.

As he told World Archery:

Sjef is relatively young to knock the professional sport on the head, although there are quite a few older archers in the peloton who seem likely to be making this Games their last.

Four quota places in archery got reassigned after some archers failed to make the minimum qualifying score , and giving Malaysia a dangerous (maybe) mixed team. Reena Parnat of Estonia (pictured top) grabbed one of the places.

New Zealand also returned their single women’s place, a few weeks after returning their single men’s place. If they’re not going to send their athletes to the Games, why do they even send them to qualifying competitions that award places? Seems like a recipe for bad feeling all-round.

The wider world of Olympic sport was much more focused on the one-month ban handed out to US sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson for testing positive for cannabis at the US Olympic trials and the banning by FINA of the Soul Cap for Olympic competition – currently under review, apparently. (The Soul Cap is legal for competition in England and elsewhere). Both of them touch on much wider, more complicated issues, and are exactly the sort of thing that needs to be faced directly if the Olympic movement is not to start losing goodwill all over the world.

Over in the tennis world, Australian Nick Kyrgios has signalled his intentions that if the Olympics isn’t what he thinks is should be, he’s not going to bother:

While the Aussie Olympic committee has backed him, for me, this smacks of an insult to other Australian Olympians (and indeed, all others) who might have worked their entire lives to make a Games and represent their country. With tennis, an Olympic gold is broadly considered the equivalent to winning a Grand Slam title – but no more than that. The Olympics is just a thing that happens and you don’t get paid for in the lucrative professional tennis world.

Photo: the Guardian

Whatever will transpire in Tokyo, the sporting competition will still be the Olympics, and will still – we all hope – be the best in the world versus the best in the world. The wider circus, much diminished, will be a lesser part of it this time around, and there will be less people to flatter the egos of people like Nick Kyrgios. (In Rio, several golfers pulled out citing the damp squib that was the Zika threat, pouring fuel on the fire of opinion that states that if the Olympic isn’t the pinnacle of your sport (like archery) then it probably shouldn’t be there.)

Krygios isn’t not the only tennis player to give Tokyo the swerve. Serena Williams has pulled out without giving reasons (although they are thought to be related to her being unable to bring her family), and Rafael Nadal has also pulled out, citing the need to extend his career. (The courts in Tokyo are hard and fast DecoTurf, and wouldn’t suit his game very well. If Rafa can keep going until Paris 2024, he might just be fit enough to play at the courts in Roland Garros, long the site of his greatest successes). So perhaps the secret is just… keeping your mouth shut?

Canadian archer and 2020 Olympian Stephanie Barrett is the subject of a lively piece on fantasy and archery in the local press.

Deepika Kumari was given some local government cash for her amazing performance at the World Cup in Paris, as was her coach and the rest of her team. 50 lakh works out to about £48,500 it seems. That’s a nice treat for the summer.

For Tokyo medals, they have promised her two crore for gold (about £200k), one crore for silver (£100k) and 75 lakh for bronze. (£72k). All about them Benjamins.

And Kang Chae Young (for it is she) put in an 698 in practice (six points above the world record, set by her in 2019). Although the web community was pretty critical of the way she filled out her scorecard. 🤣

More soon.

Tokyo 2020 logos: still some work to do?

14 April, 2016

Original logo designer Kenjiro Sano. Pic via Inside The Games.

Last year a furore erupted over the logo design for the Tokyo 2020 games, which was eventually withdrawn over claims that it had been plagiarised. I retain a sneaking suspicion that it was withdrawn not because it infringed the copyright of an obscure Belgian theatre company, but because it was really, really awful.  I wrote a longish, ranty blog post about exactly why so in July last year.

Certainly the glare of public opinion was not kind, but the London 2012 logo received similar levels of stick, and they stuck that one out. Given the loss of face involved – a huge deal in Japan – the decision to yank it must have been agonising.

Since that debacle, the organising committee held an open public competition to design a new pair of logos for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Anyone resident in Japan could enter, and nearly 15,000 people did. The four finalists, all currently anonymous, are below.

The reaction from Japan’s design community to the finalist designs has been spectacularly sniffy and condescending:

“Public submission seems more fair than a designer or agency picked by an elite, but the overall result will probably lack quality,” said Benjamin Thomas of Tokyo-based Bento Graphics, who said the logos on the shortlist fail to “immediately visually explain their concept”.

Another Tokyo-based designer, Ian Lynam of Ian Lynam Design, said the logos were “unprofessional in terms of structure, form and execution” and were more akin to “cartoons or caricatures”.

Designer Keiko Hirano said: “We must not fail to recognise that once again, the renewed competition will not be a reflection of the consensus of the Japanese people.”

Art director and the chairman of Japan Graphic Designers Association, Katsumi Asaba, told Sports Hochi said he preferred Sano’s effort as the new contenders were of a “really low level of design”.

This, of course, came hot on the heels of another, even bigger design row over the main Olympic stadium involving the late architect Zaha Hadid. After that, the organising committee made it very clear that they expected ‘Japanese-ness’ to be a big part of any design elements that were facing the public.

So here they are. What do you think? Personally I think that one is a lot stronger than the others. There’s a poll at the bottom. Choose one and let me know. Add a comment, why dontcha? And you can stick your oar in directly to the organisers here.

UPDATE: April 25th – the results are in:  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/04/25/national/checkered-pattern-chosen-as-official-logo-for-2020-tokyo-olympic-games/



A. Harmonized chequered emblem

Chequered patterns have been popular in many countries around the world throughout history. In Japan, the chequered pattern became formally known as “ichimatsu moyo” in the Edo period (1603-1867), and this chequered design in the traditional Japanese colour of indigo blue expresses a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan.

Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes, the design represents different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. It incorporates the message of “unity in diversity”. It also expresses that the Olympic and Paralympic Games seek to promote diversity as a platform to connect the world.


B. Connecting Circle, Expanding Harmony

“This design expresses the connection between the dynamism of the athletes and the joy of the spectators, and the expansion of peace and harmony throughout the world.
It seeks to encompass mental and physical strength, dynamic movement and speed, and the euphoric emotions that the world derives from outstanding athletic performances.
The design also expresses the respect and warm hospitality that will be accorded to visitors from around the world to the Tokyo 2020 Games.”


C. Surpassing One’s Personal Best

“These emblems were inspired by the traditional Wind God and the Thunder God, and seek to convey dynamic movement at the instant an athlete breaks the tape on the finish line. They also represent athletes as they endeavour to attain and surpass their personal best.
The Wind God and the Thunder God have been much loved by the people of Japan for centuries. (e.g. the famous painting by the early 17th century Japanese artist Tawaraya Sotatsu, and the statues of these Gods at the Kaminari-mon Gate in Tokyo’s Asakusa district)
In the original depiction, the taiko drums held by the Thunder God are represented by fireworks, while the Wind Cloth held by the Wind God is replaced by the portrayal of a rainbow to symbolise the concepts of peace, diversity and harmony.
The emblems also express the athletes’ continued contribution to peace through their mental and physical tenacity, and a connection to the future.”


D. Flowering of Emotions

“The morning glory flower as it faces up towards the heavens to greet the new morning, expresses the faces of athletes striving to attain a personal best and the bright faces of people as they applaud the athletes. The upward-looking morning glory also represents the climax of this range of emotions.
The seed of the morning glory sprouts, the vine grows, and the flower opens,—the process of the flower growing and eventually returning to seed conveys the sense of expectation for the Games and succession to the next generation.
This flower was particularly popular during Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867), and remains a firm favourite (e.g. as subject for “Ukiyoe” prints.)
It signifies a heightened sense of anticipation towards the 2020 Games and the warm welcome that visitors from around the world will receive.”


Quotes and pic via Inside The Games. Thanks.

When will compound archery become an Olympic sport?

21 April, 2015

Matt Stutzman at the Paralympics: London 2012

Matt Stutzman at the Paralympics: London 2012

With just a few hundred days to go until Rio, there has now been a pair of posts by USA Archery speaking with Tom Dielen about if, how and when compound archery would be introduced to the Olympic Games (it has been a part of the Paralympics since 2008, of course). I have compiled both of them below into one interview.

There is already a plan submitted to include a recurve mixed team event at Tokyo 2020, which is a much easier sell to the IOC as it would not increase the number of athletes. Keeping the number of athletes for the Summer Games down to 10,500 is a key tenet of the Agenda 2020 proposals which are designed to reduce the cost and complexity of hosting the Games.

There are logistics issues too: the four medal archery programme at the moment with 128 athletes already monopolises a large venue for a week, so in order to have a compound competition either the programme would have to be significantly extended, the venue redesigned (presumably to four lanes) or the total number of athletes kept at the same or similar number, which would significantly change the recurve competition.

It seems very unlikely to be introduced at Toyko 2020, so if it does happen, the 2024 Games will be the earliest we see the bowstyle appearing. I suspect a lot depends on the continuing popularity of the Olympic competition in Brasil and Japan for a worldwide TV audience. Here’s hoping.

What if compound archery was an Olympic event? 

The benefits to archery are clear: There would be increased exposure for the sport, and the opportunity for more Olympic archery medals.

After all, archery is archery – no matter what bow we shoot.

But is it even possible for compound archery to become an Olympic event, and if so, what would it take to make that happen? For the first in a series of articles on this very hot topic, we talked with Tom Dielen, the Secretary General of World Archery.

“Worldwide, is it possible to estimate the percentage of compound archers versus recurve archers? “

It’s incredibly difficult to count the number of archers worldwide, independent of the bow they shoot: There are all those who shoot casually at a club or aren’t members of a federation, or visit centers or shops.

What we can easily count is the number of elite athletes competing at World Archery events and compare how many of these are compound and how many are recurve.

Over the 2014 season of World Championships (indoor and field) and Archery World Cup stages, we had 909 recurve entries and 653 compound. That’s about a 60:40 split.

In some of our larger member associations (national archery governing bodies), you would find more of a 70:30 split based on participation at national competitions.

We know that the number of casual compound archers is large, especially in North America, but we’re aiming to convert these people into competitors in the sport.

“Why hasn’t compound archery already been a part of the Olympic Games? “

Compound archery was first included in the World Archery Championships in 1995 – after an introduction in field and indoor disciplines earlier on.

It was only three years before that when World Archery introduced the head-to-head system to recurve archery, a competition format that greatly increased the event’s value to the Olympic Program.

A first request to include compound into the Olympics was made by Jim Easton in the late 1990s. However, the feedback received at that time was that it was impossible to add athletes, the disciplines were too similar, and that compound lacked universality (appeal and involvement from many different types of countries). What’s more, at that time, the position of archery was not as strong as it is now.

Getting a sport or discipline added to the Olympic Program has not been a quick process. Sports were voted in and out only at meetings held every four years – and there was little turnover.

However, the situation changed slightly last December, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accepted the Agenda 2020 recommendations that shifted the Olympic Program from sports-based to event-based.

“What is World Archery’s position on having compound archery added to the Olympic Games? “

World Archery would like to have more archery events and more medals at the Olympic Games. The first goal is to add the mixed team to the recurve event, as this is quota neutral – meaning it does not increase the number of athletes.

It would be fantastic for the sport and its exposure internationally and in individual countries to include compound athletes in the Olympic Games.

There is the example of India at the Asian Games, where compound was introduced for the first time in 2014. The nation made the top 10 rankings thanks to four compound medals in archery. Nowhere does it say whether these were compound or recurve medals; they count just the same, and as archery.

Having said that, compound archery is already in the World Games – a multisport event that has been growing at an exceptional rate. The next edition is scheduled for Wroclaw in 2017, and then the World Games will head to Birmingham, Alabama in the USA for 2021.

At Cali [Colombia] 2013, there were huge, full spectator stands for the compound event. Birmingham 2021 is a real opportunity to showcase the sport – and what’s more, the IOC has signed an agreement to work closer with the World Games as a result of Agenda 2020.

The IOC basically sees the World Games as a test platform for new events. Therefore, we all have huge interest in delivering a great compound event at future World Games. Together with USA Archery, we should aim to have 10,000 spectators watching the finals in Birmingham.

That would send a clear message.

World Archery is also working to have compound added to other Continental Games, following the example of the Asian edition, as another way of increasing visibility.

“What are the IOC’s criteria for adding new events? “

There are many areas of assessment for new sports events in the Olympic Games. They range from participation, popularity, gender balance and competition level, to engagement with youth, integrity and individuality. One essential factor is television appeal.

Compound archery has the qualities of an Olympic discipline – but it will be up against tough competition like skateboarding, squash, wakeboarding and 3×3 basketball.

For the 2016 Olympic Games, along with the 26 Summer Olympic sports from London, there were 23 additional requests from sports to join the event. We are not the only ones with great ideas!

Now that we’re excited to see compound archers in the Olympic stadium, what can specifically be done to add compound archery to the Olympic Games? How can archery fans support this effort – and how are governing bodies working to make this change? Keep an eye out for our next article in this series, which will explore next steps for this initiative.

How would the addition of compound potentially benefit the sport of archery? 

There would be increased exposure, the opportunity for more Olympic archery medals. It would give more chances for different countries to win medals.

Is there any sense of how soon compound might become a part of the Games? 

It will not be a quick process, but each step along the way will be beneficial. Realistically, we are possibly looking at 2024, but more likely 2028.

What are some of the changes that must be made in order to have compound added? 

We have to raise the level of competition in the discipline, not in terms of the top archers but the depth and variety of the field. Compound archery is popular in some countries – like the USA – but the Olympics is a worldwide sporting event and many less developed nations simply do not practice the discipline.

At a most basic level: the availability of equipment and technical expertise.

The other critical element is the gender balance in all aspects. This means in participation but especially in performance level. At the moment, the level of compound women’s elite archery is not the same as the men’s. At the last World Championships, 28 points separated the women’s top 30 athletes over the qualification round – only 14 points the top 30 men. This pattern is echoed across other major events.

Alongside our development work, more investment needs to be made by member associations and manufacturers to make this a reality. Equal prize money in all events (World Archery already has this) is another related aspect to work on.

There’s also work to be done in event presentation – making compound more and more appealing to a live audience – communicating the successes, stories and challenges of the sport more effectively, and working to maximize that “cool” factor of archery in the movies.

We tested a number of competition formats over the past few years – and that is part of the process of developing a sport product that is different enough to the recurve event to have a chance of being included.

We need to develop archery’s version of beach volleyball. It doesn’t need to be on a beach – but we do need to make it different enough from recurve archery to enhance the appeal!

How is World Archery working to help make these changes? 

Continued development of the compound competition format, presentation and standard, and our international events, is a huge part of the process. The shift to include compound archery in the World Games – the first being the 2013 event – another initiative, plus the discipline in the first continental multisport event last year. We also have had excellent compound competitions in the Universiades and the Commonwealth Games.

We are making changes to how we present athletes on our website and encouraging high levels of social media activity among archers – another marker the IOC assess.

Our development department works hard to promote archery of all levels in nations growing in the sport around the world, and we have an equipment assistance program sponsored by many archery manufacturers.

During the ATA Show, World Archery met with manufacturers to explain why we have put in place the rule against athletes using camouflage equipment at international events. As well as safety (in field and 3D) being a factor, the move is largely about the presentation of the sport looking towards the Olympics. Camo would not be allowed at the Games – and if we truly want compound archery into the Olympics, then we need to make it a sport that we can successfully submit to the IOC for inclusion.

At World Archery target events (world championships and the Archery World Cup), the compound and recurve competitions are equal. We use Saturday as the compound finals day and Sunday for the recurve – both with identical schedules and prize money.

Is there anything that archers, coaches and others can do to help with having it included? 

Sports need personality and proactivity from elite athletes – as well as performance. Jesse Broadwater is a fantastic compound example: recently, his athlete Facebook page has grown to around 24,000 likes as he has put the effort in to better promote himself and the sport. It’s this kind of attitude that helps make compound in the Olympics a viable suggestion.

At whatever level and in whatever field – be it as an athlete, a coach, a tournament organizer, a photographer or journalist, even in governance of a club, region, state, or country – it’s about presenting compound archery as a global discipline that everyone can enjoy, participate in and watch.

Small things can help: wearing smart or sports clothes and shoes rather than jeans provides that positive sporting image to the external audience that we all know archery to have. If we want to be perceived as sportsmen and women in a real sports discipline, then we need to dress and act as such.

Remember, it’s not archers that we need to convince that compound should be in the Olympics. It’s those who don’t shoot.

Anything else WA would like to add: 

Archery is archery no matter what bow we shoot. We all love the sport and we need to make sure we stay positive about archery as a sport, together – and give it the good image it deserves. If we work together, presenting a unified and larger group of athletes, then things will become easier and progress will be made.


[via: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Archery/News/Features/2015/March/19/Is-Compound-Archery-an-Olympic-Hopeful]


You may also want to read this piece from the NYT from 2012.