Everyone in the sport climbing community is excited about the potential Olympics opportunity in 2020 and all wait with baited breath for the IOC decision in August this year. However, at an open youth event last year I bumped into an old friend and fellow climbing parent whos take on the Olympic situation made me sit up and think.
For ten years or more I have been one of the long suffering parents of a young climber who has competed on the local and national youth competition scene. With mostly every weekend on the road travelling the lenghth and depth of these fair isles we have visited what seems to be every climbing wall in the country. With at least two competitions a month, sometimes more, a large part of our weekend life has been dedicated to my son and the sport he loves and only recently have we been let off the hook with the purchase of his own car. We have huffed and puffed and grumbled at the relentless travel, the freezing cold climbing venues and subsequent two days of sneezing out chalk dust into a tissue, but as our parental contribution comes to a close, we look back at the period with great fondness. Over the years we have made some life-long friends, shared holidays together, experienced good times and bad and done so as familys. We have learned to enjoy climbing ourselves, judged and belayed at competitions and enjoyed a fantastic social scene and it’s the threat of the Olympics on these values and experiences that troubles my learned friend. He goes on to explain and draw my attention to unique culture in the climbing faternity that spans all generations even of the same family which is unheard of in most social structures. He remarks on the mutual support between climbers, the commeradery and despite being out to win, this somehow playing second fiddle to taking part. For him, sport climbing has been his little secret, a relatively unkown recreation that has united his whole family as it has for so many others so why do anything to spoil it. His take on the Olympics is it will attract the attention of the world and doing so people who don’t necessarily share these principles and values. Fame, fortune and success will all assert pressure, tension and every higher expectation on climbers and in doing so will break the current all inclusive climbing competion scene.
Personally, I don’t fully share this view although I do completely get where he is coming from. Yes, if sport climbing makes the Olympics I’m sure something will be lost but only at the expense of gaining something new. For me, participation in the Olympics will bring with it opportunities that far out weigh any negative consequences but as we look to the future, talking to my friend really made reflect back on what a great time we’ve had over the years.