My gut feel is this is not such a good thing holistically for climbing and climbers for the following reasons;
1. The people pushing this through, in the most part, are doing it for narrowly-focused personal or organisational gain not for what is best for the global climbing community.
A constant push for sector growth, which doubtless is the key driver for Olympic inclusion, only really makes sense for people who profit from climbing which therefore means it does not make sense for the vast majority of climbers regardless of discipline.
2. The proposed event is ridiculous and the whole concept of finding the ‘best’ climber is a fallacy
Nicely written blog post, but I'm not sure I really care one way or the other... the concerns you raise don't really affect me as a climber.
International athletics makes no difference to me when I go out for a run round london, and I don't see how international climbing competitions, whether the current world cup or a possible future olympics, have any real effect on me when I'm in Pembroke or Portland doing my thing.
Likewise, if the media think the pinnacle of climbing is going fast on plastic, so what? I guess if I was looking for sponsorship to climb full time on rock I'd see it differently, but by the time I'm good enough, I'll be too old.
If this slightly odd competition they've come up with encourages kids into the climbing gym to get fit and healthy, then it's probably a good thing. Even more so for those who discover the rock through people they meet there.
Cycling in the Olympics bears a passing resemblance to day to day cycling, but they are markedly different. Our success at the Olympics has encouraged many to cycle, which a good thing. Climbing at the Olympics could do the same for climbing, regardless of difference in format.
Because if droves of people are attracted to climbing through the novelty of sanitised speed races on plastic, theye not motivated by any love of rock climbing in the form we know it. There will be an inevitable increased demand to sanitise climbing outside to fit with the new image of what climbing is (and possibly a return to climbers in lycra !).
I imagine they may be attracted to the sport they see on the box. They will be climbing on plastic not rock. Climbing in the Olympics does not make me fear for Stanage, Pembroke or The Old Man of Hoy etc.
> (In reply to lowersharpnose)
> Because if droves of people are attracted to climbing through the novelty of sanitised speed races on plastic, theye not motivated by any love of rock climbing in the form we know it. There will be an inevitable increased demand to sanitise climbing outside to fit with the new image of what climbing is (and possibly a return to climbers in lycra !).
Why inevitable? I'd have thought people who want the sanitised speed races on plastic will by and large stick to speed racing on plastic. Those who venture outdoors will be doing so because they want to try another climbing discipline.
To an extent I agree - and of course cycling has had a lot of money poured in to it by our Government.. However, it is also worth remembering how utterly corrupted Cycling has been in recent years due to the extreme competitiveness created by a sport where winning provides the opportunity for a lot of money... there has been endemic doping and disgustingly low levels of integrity - and although climbing is not perfect, on the whole, it is pretty damn good.
I doubt there are many doping pro-climbers (not enough money/impractical) and besides they do it because they love it - not for a cash prize at the end and because they have a whole team of professionals pushing them to get there.
Maybe the Olympics will increase sponsorship for professional climbers - but only those who compete in the Olympics - if anything the 'real' climbers getting out there, putting up new lines, with imagination and perseverance are more likely to see a drop in sponsorship if they are not also competing toward Olympic medals.
Over all, I do worry that the general culture of climbing could be negatively affected under the wealth-driving media glare of becoming an Olympic sport.
It would be interesting to see if the BMC has carried out a study into climbing and the intangible assets that exist in the climbing community and if there is a likelihood of them being eroded, what impact this may have on climbing as a whole. (For example climbing culture or attitudes that have been developed over the past 100 years or so).
Have they looked in to the potential affect on 'real' climbers and their sponsorship and if they would end up being drawn into the Olympics, away from where passions lie, to make a living?
I suspect they are mostly blinded by the potential money and have put any nagging concerns to the back of their minds while quoting 'business sense'.
^ If the BMC have not studied this - or at least given it careful consideration (for which it would be good to see the research/data that drives it) I would suggest they make poor custodians for climbing as an activity/sport in the UK.
> (In reply to lowersharpnose)
> Because if droves of people are attracted to climbing through the novelty of sanitised speed races on plastic, they're not motivated by any love of rock climbing in the form we know it. There will be an inevitable increased demand to sanitise climbing outside to fit with the new image of what climbing is (and possibly a return to climbers in lycra !).
If they aren't motivated by the outdoors and the adventure of climbing then they aren't going to be motivated to get up early on a Saturday to drive to somewhere like the Lakes and walk up to, say, Pavey to go climbing.
A percentage might try a spot of top roping at Lower Scout or Birchen or wherever but based on your profile you have enough vision to venture beyond such venues.
A very small percentage may then get properly into it - but who are we to say their motives are any less worthy?
> More climbers is not a bad thing; erosion and damage to culture, poor representation of the sport and funding pushing the sport perhaps 'the wrong' way could be a bad thing.>
Surely more climbers does result in more erosion, along with more polish, litter etc.
On a different note....
For what its worth, I allowed my BMC membership to lapse when they endorsed this Olympic nonsense. A futile gesture perhaps but it was a step too far for an organisation which I felt for some time had been going in the wrong direction.
Like too many committees, they don't stop at things which really needed doing and could only be done by them, but actively seem to find things to do. They have their fingers in too many pies with policies for this and symposiums for that, all the while eroding one of the central values of climbing, that of individual responsibility, hence a culture in which the BMC has to be the solution to every problem rather than individual climbers, and to fund all this work they end up jumping through government hoops to get the cash which inevitably distorts their agenda.
For me, the BMC is too much like a governing body rather a representative one and skirts too close to actively promoting climbing rather simply than representing people who happen to be climbers.
I don't doubt they do a lot of good work and the individuals involved have the best of intentions but then the road to hell is paved with good intentions as they say.
I drifted out of conventional sport and into climbing in my late teens to get away from the rules, bureaucracy, commercialisation, drugs and power struggles etc within it and now its all coming to climbing, apparently embraced by our representatives.
Climbing in the Olympics can only erode the values that attracted me to climbing.
I'd come round to the idea of lead climbing in the Olympics and would probably not even object to bouldering if that's what people wanted, but to combine them seems a bit silly, and adding the complete joke which is speed climbing renders the whole thing farcical. Forget it.....
In reply to nathanmurfie:
id say that climbing as a "sport" is reaching a tipping point in its democratisation to the masses. theres something like 75000+ members of the BMC currently (thats tiny)..i do think there is some ground in claiming that the BMC is pushing this bid in the hope of some sort of financial gain, but is that really a problem? my personal opinion i have never seen climbing as a sport more of a fun thing to do... but each to their own. did the BMC ask its members/climbing community if it/they wanted climbing in the olympics? if a poll was created by the BMC id support a majority vote either way.
also i think indoor walls would take the burden of new climbers (or the people who want to have a go). i think it would be rare for people to progress outside to the crags from watching the olympics... and the people who do eventually would be worth keeping
and on a side note it would be great for introducing more females and BME to the "sport"... something that i think the sport needs.
> (In reply to Robert Durran)
> I apologise for editing your post but c'mon. Climbing IS silly.
You could say that about many things and virtually all things in the Olympics. It is about relative contrivance and silliness; at least indoor lead climbing bear some relation to real climbing, whereas speed climbing the same route over and over again does not - its inclusion would devalue the other disciplines.
In reply to TM_Horton: Its quite inspirational. my daughter is already aiming for it in her own head when she heard of the possibilty of it being an Olympic sport. She watched the Olympics enthusiatically and she's 10. She just thinks its a great idea. Maybe it functions on a level for young people and gives incentive.
> (In reply to nathanmurfie)
> ...hasten the trashing of popular crags and the spread of bolts into trad areas.
This is a non argument. I'm sure all the new climbers (from the olympic climbocalypse) will spend a bit of time learning about climbing before they are all issued with hiltis to use indiscriminately on the grit*
In reply to MargieB: It is cool that it is inspiring, no doubt it will be and am sure she thinks it is a good idea - at 10 I certainly would not have been able to see the broader picture or raise questions around the potential negative impacts the Olympics could have.
However, will it just inspire a generation to go climb plastic furiously in order to get a medal and the notoriety that it may bring?
This is not what climbing is 'about' today and, at least from my point of view, preferably not tomorrow either.
I watched this yesterday ( youtube.com/watch?v=3Dgr36MfnWU& )- it contains the essence of climbing and doing stuff like this is actually accessible to far more people than 4 yearly pretend-gold medal.
It is stuff like this that should inspire young climbers - not crushing plastic for fame.
In reply to nathanmurfie: I'm not quite sure where I stand on this debate, but there is no doubt that a climbing competition, as proposed for the Olympics, is highly artificial.
Many other sports, from football , hockey etc. to running, swimming and road cycling to boxing, judo etc., have a natural competition mode based essentially on what the sport is all about. Yes, you can hit a tennis ball backwards and forwards without keeping score, but the essence of tennis is to play against and try to beat an opponent by winning points.
The essence of climbing is not direct competition. The climbing wall is, for me, simply a gym, where I train for the real thing, which is real rock and mountains.
Fell running would feel to me like a more natural event to add.
> This is a non argument. I'm sure all the new climbers (from the olympic climbocalypse) will spend a bit of time learning about climbing before they are all issued with hiltis to use indiscriminately on the grit*
> *Other rock types also exist.
You might disagree with my conclusion, but it's not a non-argument (although your response surely is).
Firstly, trashing the rock: it seems pretty obvious to me that more indoor climbers will lead to more outdoor climbers, and therefore the trashing of popular venues will accelerate.
Secondly, more bolts: the current set of climbing ethics are a sort of weighted consensus amongst current climbers. My feeling is that the sort of voices that inevitably crop up during any discussion of currently acceptable practises to make cliched and uninformed arguments in favour of more bolting usually come from the recent climbing-wall-graduates. I'm worried that with a large enough influx to indoor climbing, these attitudes might start to influence the bolting situation for the worse.
Just to pre-empt some tedious but inevitable responses: I'm saying that people with a certain misguided view tend to come from a certain climbing background. I'm not saying all wall climbers have misguided views and I'm not saying that all bolting arguments are misguided.
I really can't see such folk (ie. those who have a fleeting or occasional interest in climbing, whether it be indoors or out, or top-roping or leading) going out of their way to make their voices heard. It takes more than an online debate to affect the real decision making that takes place through the BMC and its regional area meetings.
> (In reply to Eric the Red)
> It's not really a spectator sport..quite dull really. Great actually doing it.
I don't know, actually - a lot of non-climbers seem to quite enjoy reasonably well shot videos of bouldering competitions when they crop up, because there tends to be some fairly obvious athleticism going on in fairly short doses. One guy goes for the big dyno, misses, and falls off, second guy goes for the big dyno and catches it, second guy wins. It's certainly got more immediate appeal than judo or fencing or some of the weirder track cycling events, for instance.
I'd rather be climbing outdoors myself than watching other people climb indoors, but I'd rather be climbing outdoors than watching most sports tbh.
> did the BMC ask its members/climbing community if it/they wanted climbing in the olympics? if a poll was created by the BMC id support a majority vote either way.
As has been discussed on here many times the BMC did consult it's membership thoroughly before deciding to support the IFSC, though some who didn't like the result will argue otherwise.
The decision was made by the National council, whose voting members are elected either from the area meetings, or the AGM (i.e. Pres and 3 VPs). The issue had been debated extensively at area meetings, with votes indicating an 80-90% approval (and some very vociferous objections)
What the BMC didn't do was invest in a crystal ball so that it would now exactly what the effects on "the man on Stanage" will be.
"Of course, the ultimate decision about whether or not climbing will be part of the Olympics rests with the IOC. Does it have a real chance of getting in? There are certainly factors in climbing’s favour. The IOC is known to be intrigued by the success of the X-Games and has favoured other less conventional sports, particularly skiing and snowboarding disciplines in the Winter Games.
Then there are powerful new revenue streams for the IOC to exploit. There isn’t a huge industry built around korfball, but there are some powerful brands associated with climbing, like North Face, which must be aching to get a stronger association with the Olympics. And outdoor sports can boast a high participation factor, certainly higher than many current Olympic disciplines."
^ALSO - mostly about money.. the IOC being a money driven, fairly bent and lacking moral compass are wondering if they can make a bit more cash with Climbing
"Those who support the BMC backing the IFSC’s bid for Olympic participation argue that if the BMC said no to the Olympics British climbing would lose out – and so would the BMC. Competitions officer Rob Adie says: ‘I don't think the IFSC would ever demand us to resign, but I don’t think they would be too happy if we say: “We don't support Sport Climbing becoming an Olympic sport, but oh, by the way, can we host the World Championships in 2013 please?”
^ We should support it to appease organisations with a lot to gain for political reasons?
"Adie says the main argument for voting yes is to remain involved in the decision-making process leading up to Olympic participation. ‘The IFSC are pursuing this without our support, so it is not a question of whether we agree with it, it is whether we want to be involved, and in the meantime allow us to host international events in the UK."
^ So - vote yes so that we can have an effect on it if it does go ahead - instead of what is best for climbing and climbers
"The BMC is a member of two international organisations, the IFSC and the UIAA, whose stated objectives include getting climbing into the Olympics. So if the BMC said no to the Olympics then they would be in violation of their obligations as members. They would have to allow a new body to take care of competitions."
^ Again - politics - not what they feel is objectively best for climbing and climbers
"And if climbing did achieve Olympic status, would the BMC be turning its back on a lot of new money that could help all its work – including access?"
^ Again - about money
"For all kinds of reasons, climbing outside still draws most of the talent and gets most of the media attention, certainly in Britain. But I’m willing to bet that if there were an Olympic gold medal up for grabs, many top climbers would reconsider – and the climbing public would be riveted."
^ Of course - less time doing real climbing - more time doing what is now necessary to try to earn a living
"How would that impact on British climbing generally? That can only remain speculation, but it will happen with or without the co-operation of the BMC. The IFSC is going to seek Olympic status with or without the BMC’s support"
^ Sure - but it would have a detrimental effect on a bid if one of the large bodies of a recent host country does not support the bid?
"Currently, the BMC only gets ten percent of its income from the Sports Council. Only 12 percent of its specialist programme budget is absorbed by competitions. The Olympics would change all that.
That flood of money would inevitably be spent on a very small number of climbers, coaches and administrators. Ordinary members might wonder what’s in it for them, especially, as the official warned, other grants might become vulnerable. Losing an access officer while taking on coaching staff would alienate ordinary members like nothing else. The character of the BMC might change for good."
^ No shit!
"Other sports have been down this road before. Log on to the British Canoe Union’s website and the first impression you get is that canoeing is all about competing and little else. There is no mention of access and conservation work at all, despite both being burning issues for ordinary canoeists.
For recreational paddlers, that’s frustrating. One stalwart from the canoeing scene told me that the BCU’s relationship with competitions has become ‘a case of the tail wagging the dog. It’s the debate of the day in many clubs and is creating a lot of discontent.’ Canoeists traditionally entered the sport through clubs and then specialised, for example as slalom canoeists or sea kayakers. Young paddlers are now more likely to be switched on by competitive kayaking. That is having an impact on how the sport develops."
^ OK - so - why has the BMC not done a study on the full remit of 'like' sports that have entered the Olympics and looked at the following:
- How it has changed these organisations
- How it has changed the outward focus of these sports
- What members of these organisations think about the process after it has happened
- How the money influx - being 100% Olympic focused has damaged the community and culture of a pre-existing sport
- If there has been any real benefit to the broader sport; opposed to a small number of coaches, teams & training facilities (with data to back this up)
- How the organisation's involved focus has changed, from what - to what
With this sort of study (instead of random anecdotal debate) they could have determined what was best for climbing over-all and been vocal about the result; regardless of what it is.
This would have been a far more professional way of handling a potentially-irreversible change to the activity they represent. Using results of these studies, and the data collected; then they should go to debates & votes.
Searching the BMC site; I cannot find anything published that suggests they have looked into this properly.
> Searching the BMC site; I cannot find anything published that suggests they have looked into this properly.
Sorry, but you appear to be quoting extensively from a document on the BMC site, written by a BMC VP, which details a lot of your concerns.
In the discussions I've attended, the BCU has been mentioned a lot as an example of what not to do. There has also been discussion of whether the BMC might have to create a new comps organisation in the event of climbing being in the olympics (see the snow sports funding fiasco). However that's for the future - spliting up the BMC on the off-chance that climbing gets into the olympics would be damaging to all concerned.
However, the extensive investigation you seem to be demanding would tie up a lot of officer time that could be spent elsewhere, and would be so speculative and full of predictions that I doubt it would be of much use.
There was another thread not long ago about this subject; and the same dire predictions are being trotted out again. Our crags will become over run and crowded. They will be polished by over use. They will be bolted and it will result in the death of trad and adventure climbing. Yet is there any evidence that this is any more than supposition. Quite to the contrary. We have already had a mass explosion in the number of climbers. Over the last twenty years the number of new climbers can be measured not in thousands, but in tens of thousands or more probably over a hundred thousand. They start in Walls and many stay there. Many venture out and broaden their climbing experiences. Are the crags overcrowded. Are they polished and worn out. Are they grid bolted and is trad a thing of the past. It's not happened in twenty years. If you want a measure of the effect of mass popularisation of climbing, wander up to Hen Cloud or Dow Crag or Bosigran. Time how long you have to wait for a route. Count the number of bolts.
If it selected you will see more climbing walls but not hundreds of new walls. Many exisiting ones will have a bit more income to spend on improvements. If you don't like walls it won't affect you at all.
Climbing related companies will have more customers and more money for R&D. So you will see a wider choice of improved equipment. As has happened over the last twenty years.
If the BMC gets funding, it will get extra funding. So money and officer time won't be diverted away from important areas like access.
If you think Olympic participation will debase the public perception of climbing..how on earth have we survived Cliff Hanger, Bear Grylls and bloody Walkers Crinkle Cut Crisps adverts.
My concern is not at all related to increased numbers of climbers - the more people that get to share the benefits the better; the erosion of climbing culture and values is a concern and it is hard to see how it will not be affected.
Above it has been pointed out that the BMC had no choice but to be complicit, regardless of what is best for climbing over-all, because the other climbing organisations would just do it anyway and they may loose 'total oversight' or 'potential funding' - this is just gutless politics. The decision should be made only on what is best for climbing - not best for the political position of the BMC.
There is nothing comparable in scale that can have an impact on climbing at this point of time so you kind of expect more due-diligence to have been carried out. If through this process they found that it is likely to have a negative impact on climbing, as it stands today, then they should have actively campaigned against it.
> My concern is not at all related to increased numbers of climbers - the more people that get to share the benefits the better; the erosion of climbing culture and values is a concern and it is hard to see how it will not be affected.
> Above it has been pointed out that the BMC had no choice but to be complicit, regardless of what is best for climbing over-all, because the other climbing organisations would just do it anyway and they may loose 'total oversight' or 'potential funding' - this is just gutless politics. The decision should be made only on what is best for climbing - not best for the political position of the BMC.
> There is nothing comparable in scale that can have an impact on climbing at this point of time so you kind of expect more due-diligence to have been carried out. If through this process they found that it is likely to have a negative impact on climbing, as it stands today, then they should have actively campaigned against it.
The BMC don´t have a remit to do the "best for climbing", they are there to represent the interests of all climbers. Some like comp climbing and some don´t.
The same thing was supposed to happen with mountain biking when it became an olympic sport, it never materialised, it never happened. It raised the profile of the sport but its appearance as an Olympic sport didnt mean people rushed to try it, the offroad trails didnt get any more filled with bikes. It just never happened. 'Calm down its only a commercial', very apt I think.
Any culture will change and morph and evolve over time. And the culture in climbing will change whether it's in the Olympics or not - and nothing you say or do can stop it.
Some 'mutations' will be good. And some will be bad. We may not even agree on which are which. That's life.
Plus - you seem to have a massive downer on the BMC. I bet there's countless things they've done to positively benefit your climbing over the last however long. As above - some of the things they do you will see as positive, some as negative.
We're all different and have different tastes - both in and out of climbing. And that can only be a good thing.
In reply to ti_pin_man:
The other example sometimes quotes is kayaking/canoeing. Apparently - and I'm not reporting any first hand experience here - the BCU shifted toward being a much more competition-focus organisation to the detriment for things like access rights.
Anyone here have any better insight into the history of the BCU, kayaking and the Olympics? Does it really just boil down to the motivations of individual involved rather than external pressures?
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