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2ND LEAD Surf's up: IOC approves five new sports for Tokyo 2020 Olympics By John Bagratuni, dpa

Europe
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Rio de Janeiro (dpa) - Baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing were approved Wednesday as new sports for the 2020 Games in Tokyo by the International Olympic Committee.

The five sports, with 18 events and 474 athletes, are being added to the Tokyo programme alone, based on a proposal of the Japanese organizers and a nod by the IOC executive board in June.

The IOC spoke of "the biggest change in the modern Olympic programme," and Tokyo organizing committee director general Toshiro Muto was delighted.

"We believe the five sports deliver significant benefits, including worldwide youth appeal and great added value to Tokyo 2020 overall. It will inspire young athletes to compete at the highest level around the world," he said.

Japan is the birthplace of karate, and organizing committee chief Yoshiro Mori described baseball as "almost our national sport."

However, officials had to admit that they have yet to reach an agreement with Major League Baseball in the United States about the participation of its stars.

Baseball/softball returns after last being in the Olympic programme in 2012, while karate came third time lucky after being rejected for 2012 and 2016. Skateboarding was at the 2014 Youth Olympics and now will make its Olympic debut along with surfing in four years‘ time.

Baseball/softball chief Ricardo Fraccari said: "We are very proud to be elected again. We have an agreement with all federations and have an open discussion and are on a good way with the MLB. Our goal is appear permamently and to have the best players as possible."

International Surfing Association (ISL) president Fernando Aguerre of Argentina told reporters: "I am very happy that we are going to bring this special energy of surfing to the Olympics. Just like snowboarding changed the face of the Winter Games, we hope to do the same at the Summer Games."

Organizers did not rule out that surfing would take place with wave-making technology, though natural waves are preferred.

Karate is to take place at the Budokan arena, which coordination committee president John Coates named "the spiritual home of martial arts in Japan." The Olympic competition will mark the 50th anniversary of the first karate world championships.

"It was a very intense wait. For us it is a really thrilling day," world karate federation chief Antonio Espinos said.

"We will try to prove that the Olympic programme is not just added value for our sport but our sport can also give significant added value to the Olympic programme."

Coates spoke of "a mix of iconic and urban venues." He said that skateboarding and climbing in temporary urban venues could see another innovation in which the Olympic venues will be open for the public immediately after the competition and on non-competition days.

Skateboarding is facing lawsuits between governing bodies, but rollersports chief Sabatino Aracu said that will be no issue in Tokyo where "we are sure to give to Tokyo 2020 an extraordinary spectacle."

IOC president Thomas Bach said: "Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games."

The IOC said that discussions on the event programme in the existing 28 Olympic sports for 2020 are to be finalized by the executive board by mid-2017.

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