The Olympics is officially underway, and much to every climber’s excitement, we can finally see our sport in a highly publicized event. I don’t know about you, but I am very pumped to sit on my ass eating and pretending like I could do better than highly trained athletes.
This event will obviously make rock climbing a more popular sport. It probably already has. The question is, will watching sport and speed climbing ever be as commonplace in America as, let’s say, watching tennis or golf (I say that only because I doubt anything can take the place of America’s obsession with baseball and football)?
I recently watched some old climbing competitions with my boyfriend, who is a self-proclaimed sports geek. He’ll put on almost any sport, but had never sat down with a beer in front of a climbing comp. I, on the other hand, am not a big sports watcher, but I love to climb so this interested me. I told him it was either this or Quidditch…so, you know…we put on some climbing.
It was interesting seeing how the sport played off in his eyes, an avid watcher of these kinds of things.
First I’ll say that he did enjoy the actual climbing. Specifically, the speed comp (to my surprise), because it went faster. Which brings me to the first critique in the production of this sport.
Climbing is too slow. Not the actual climbs but the transitions. There’s a lot of set up between one climb and the next. There’s tons of down time where we are just waiting for the climbers to map the route. A lot of this lag wasn’t as prominent to me when I was just watching with other climbers.
This is all well and fine when you know what’s coming next, but for someone just being introduced to the sport it’s just…………like…………this…………..
These wait times can be used to tell the audience more about the sport. We shouldn’t assume everyone that’s watching knows all the lingo, right? I had to explain what “beta” and “flashing” and “smearing” is to my boyfriend, who is only meant to sit there and look pretty for my entertainment. This was a lot of talking. Please, do your job, producers.
There was also no development of the cast of “characters” (sorry, theatre geek coming out). Who are these climbers? What’s their story? Why should I care if they win or lose? And if I don’t know half of them, you know that my man knew none.
I’ve been forced at gunpoint to watch baseball/basketball several times and there’s a barrage of information before, after, and during the game about who those people are. There’s drama that occurs. It heightens the anticipation for the outcome of a single game. And that’s me saying that about sports I normally would never pay attention to.
So, can Olympic climbing successfully build that kind of excitement for our sport? I guess we’ll find out. The debate, I suppose, is that becoming too popular could ruin it. But we DO have an opportunity with these minor fixes to make climbing more inclusive. Maybe lowering the barrier of entry to a sport that can bring a lot of happiness into people’s lives. Or a lot of frustration. Or both. What do you think?