Climbing, the Olympics, and the BMC: Q&A

Posted by Peter Burnside on 03/08/2016
Shauna Coxsey crushing at the Chamonix IFSC Lead World Cup. Photo: IFSC / Eddie Fowke

What will climbing look like in the Olympic Games and how will British athletes be funded? We answer some common questions.

What will the format be in the Olympics?
The format will be speed, lead and bouldering – perfectly embodying the Olympic motto, ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’. Only 20 male and 20 female athletes from around the world will compete. And there will be a combined single medal for each gender.

Which British climbers will be contenders?
The athletes that will go to the games will be talent-assessed by UK Sport and invited to join the World Class Programme (WCP). It will be difficult to predict who will be on the WCP at this stage, but it will likely be made of the current crop of strong junior athletes and some of the younger senior athletes.

What does it mean for the BMC – will there be new funding or new staff?
We should be eligible to apply for funding from UK Sport and the application will be assessed based on our current crop of talented athletes. We may be able to get funding for the WCP athletes, and the staff and resources required to run the Olympic program. But, this is not guaranteed.

What was the BMC's role in making climbing an Olympic sport?
The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) is the force behind the bid to get climbing into the Olympics.

The BMC decided to support the IFSC after Area Reps at National Council, following discussions at Area Meetings, voted to support the IFSC in their bid to get climbing in the Olympic games. 

Following the decision, the ball was in the court of the IFSC to lobby for competition climbing to be upgraded to Olympic status, with the earliest potential year of inclusion being the games of 2020.

WATCH: Climb 2020: The Olympic opportunity on BMC TV

What is the history of competition climbing?

The first indoor competition took place near Lyon, France, in 1986. The indoor competition climbing circuit was then officially recognised by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) in the late ‘80s.

It was in 1989 that the UIAA first sanctioned a World Cup series and it was in Leeds that the first event was organised by the BMC and won by our own Jerry Moffat. The overall title, however, was claimed by another Brit, Simon Nadin, who narrowly beat Jerry over the course of the whole World Cup series to effectively become the first British Climbing World Champion.

With the rise in popularity of the new climbing discipline, bouldering, a test competition was organised for 1998 and dubbed ‘The Top Rock Challenge’. Its success led to the creation of the first Bouldering World Cup in 1999.

In 2006, the International Federation of Sport Climbing was founded and accepted as a new member by the General Association of International Sports Federations.

The sport continued to grow and, today, more than 75 countries participate in climbing competitions held all over the world, with the World Championships and Youth Championships being the most popular events.

For many years, the BMC has hosted a number of international and national climbing competitions, such as the popular Youth Climbing Series, the British Bouldering Championships and British Lead Climbing Championships. So the decision to support the Olympic bid seemed to be a natural progression for competition climbing.


GB Climbing is supported by the BMC, Mountaineering ScotlandClif Bar, and Duco.

The GB Paraclimbing Team is supported by Oakwood Climbing Centre and Quay Climbing Centre. The GB Ice Climbing Team is supported by Montane. Many UK walls also support the GB Climbing through free or subsidised entry.

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HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 La Sportiva British Bouldering Championships


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