Climbing in the Olympics – Our Handy Guide

If you hadn’t heard, climbing has finally crushed its way into the Olympics. Sport climbing’s Olympic  début will be this summer in Japan. The International Federation of sport Climbing (IFSC) proposed the inclusion of Climbing in 2015 and in 2016 the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that climbing would be an official medal sport at the Tokyo 2020 summer games and we cant wait!

The climbing events will take place between August 4th - 7th 2020. Full details and the event schedule can be found on the IFSC website.

Climbing Disciplines

According to Olympic literature there will be 3 separate formats for the competing climbers and they will be ranked based on a combined score from: Sport Climbing, Bouldering and Speed Climbing. This format will possibly change at the Paris 2024 games with the IFSC applying for two separate Climbing competitions; Lead Climbing and Bouldering and keeping Speed as it's seperate comp (descriptions below). The lead wall and speed wall will be 15 meters high and Bouldering a quarter of the size standing at 4 meters

Olympic Venue

All climbing events will take part at the temporary Aomi Urban Sport Park in the Aomi waterfront district: 1 Chome-1 Aomi, Koto City, Tokyo 135-0064, Japan

Conveniently situated close to the Athletes Village, which boasts incredible views across the iconic Tokyo Bay, with a capacity of 8,400.


There will be 40 climbers in the Olympics, 20 men and 20 women in the qualification round (there is no semi final). This will be reduced down to 6 men and 6 women for the finals. Scoring will depend on the climbers ranking over all three disciplines with the lowest score taking the gold medal. For example, say a climber finished second in Lead climbing, third in Bouldering and fourth in speed their overall score would be 24 (2x3x4).

Lead Climbing

Out of all climbing disciplines this is the simplest. Each hold on the route represents points and the climber who gets the highest will collect the most points and ultimately win in that format. There could be discrepancies along the way, as judges must decide whether competitors have control of certain handholds. For example, if there is a dyno on the route and the climber touches the hold but does not gain control then the climber can gain fractional points with the possibility to appeal points awarded or not awarded. The climber must make the most of his climb as there is only one attempt allowed per lead climb.


Unlike Lead climbing when competitors are working bouldering routes they are able to fall multiple times however the number of attempts will contribute towards their overall score. They have 4 minutes per boulder problem to complete the route. By completing the route they must tap-out at the top in a secure and controlled manner using both hands. The route is broken up into four zones so even if they don’t reach the top they will still be awarded points per “zone hold” completed. Competitors are scored first by how many routes are completed, then attempts and zones.

Woman bouldering

Speed Climbing

The speed climbing event takes the form of multiple heats with two climbers racing at the same time as one-another. A competitor does not have to win the overall fastest time of the day to continue in the tournament but be the fastest of their opponent during each individual heat. The men will be competing on the 15-meter route in less than 6 seconds (record 5.48), where the ladies will be clocking less than 8 seconds (record 7.10). False starts will result in the climber’s immediate disqualification.

Read our blog on the different types of climbing.

And that’s about it for our round up of the climbing events we’re looking forward to in this summer’s Olympics. Stay tuned for more on climbing at the 2020 Olympic games.