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Campusing Announced as 2024 Olympic Climbing Category

Move over Speed. “Campusing” is the newest climbing category to feature in the upcoming Olympic Games.

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Everyone got up in arms when Speed was announced as part of the combined climbing format in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Lynn Hill famously compared the decision to “asking a middle-distance runner to compete in the sprint.”

However, as athletes prepared for the combined Olympics, many tempered their disdain. The Australian Olympian Tom O’Halloran, who originally opposed the decision, called it “a stroke of genius” that could “level the playing field” when I spoke with him in early 2021. 

When I interviewed Adam Ondra during quarantine in early 2020, he told me he had accepted Speed as an unfortunate but worthy obstacle standing in the way of his Olympic aspirations. (Ondra set a personal best on the Speed wall in finals, but floundered on the boulders, which cost him the podium.) 

Now Speed climbing will have to play second fiddle to what is likely to be among the most controversial decisions in Olympic history…

The inclusion of a “Campus” category in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

While campusing was only announced as an Olympic sport climbing event this week, and specific guidelines have yet to be laid out, International Olympic Committee (IOC) representatives told Climbing that competitors will be required to complete a variety of campus routes in the V0 to V2 range. Routes will all be no more than three meters (10 feet) off the deck and will vary in length from 10 to 15 meters (33 to 50 feet). Both vertical and overhanging traverses, as well as full-fledged roof lines, will be included.

“Climbers in rock gyms around the world have developed a vibrant, unique ‘campusing’ culture,” an IOC spokesperson said, “and by including a ‘Campus’ event in Olympic sport climbing, we hope to bring that culture into the limelight.”

“Campusing is a practice that brings climbers together and displays muscular prowess,” she said. “Whether you’re grunting loudly while performing bicep curls in front of the gym mirror, climbing while wearing a knit beanie despite not wearing a shirt, or splashing loose chalk all over the gym mats anytime you reach into your bag to chalk up, there are a number of ways to show you’re a campus climber beyond climbing easy routes using only your hands.”

The IOC spokesperson, who requested to remain anonymous, noted that “in keeping with classic campus-culture style, all competitors must be either shirtless or wearing a tank top. Furthermore, both climbing shoes and a harness must be worn at all times during the comp, the former preferably with socks,” although the climber will have no use for either.

“Climbers will not just be graded on how quickly they manage to campus a route and how many campus routes they manage to complete,” she added, “but on how much attention they draw to themselves while campusing.”

Competitors will be encouraged to make obnoxious grunts of exertion while climbing, in order to ensure that bystanders are watching them, just like in traditional campus culture in the modern climbing gym. These grunts will incur bonus points based on pitch, volume, and frequency, according to the IOC.

“The IOC recognizes that, like Speed, most climbers aren’t going to be happy about the new Campus category at first,” the spokesperson said. “I just hope that they’ll soon realize that the campus community, like any other subset of climbing, is a one-of-a-kind contributor to the sport, and it deserves representation on the Olympic stage. We’re excited to make that happen at Paris 2024.”

Happy April 1st!—Ed.