Currently, there is a cap of 28 sports possible at the Summer Olympics, with unique events being lumped under the sport umbrella (Winter Olympics do not have the same restriction as yet). Some examples are


  • Swimming
  • Water Polo
  • Diving
  • Synchronized swimming
  • Open water swimming


  • Track
  • Road
  • Mountain
  • BMX/Freestyle

And so on. Given that there are several individual sports that are related, why can't there be a sport named "Martial Arts" (or similar) and then move TKD, Karate, Judo, Wrestling, Fencing, Boxing all under the single sport umbrella? That would free up many "sports" slots, and make it easier to incorporate events such as wushu in the future. (And yes, there are 33 "sports" scheduled at the 2020 Summer Games, however the ones over the cap are demonstration sports for future consideration. If they were to be included, another sport would need to be cut.)

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    topendsports.com/events/summer/sport-selection.htm provides some information on why we have the 28 sports we do have and what it takes to change it. Sep 28, 2017 at 17:58
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    Renaming those sports wouldn't magically create more time or space for additional events.
    – chepner
    Sep 28, 2017 at 21:18
  • @chepner not if the only limitation is the # of sports. If the constrictions noted by wigwam are right, then you are also correct.
    – JohnP
    Sep 28, 2017 at 23:45
  • So you just want MMA as an Olympic sport? Me too.
    – coinbird
    Oct 3, 2017 at 21:06
  • @coinbird - No. And I doubt MMA would ever make it into the Olympics under the current KO model. It would need to have an amateur padded version ala boxing, plus all the other regulatory items (Single recognized governing body, WADA/USADA subscription which is barely being implemented in MMA currently), etc etc.
    – JohnP
    Oct 3, 2017 at 21:11

2 Answers 2


What makes multiple events fall under the same sport? They all have the same governing organization. Many individual martial arts cannot keep their affairs within one organization because of too much infighting. It is unlikely they will agree with organizations outside their own martial arts about how to manage competing interests. Look at the hostility between practitioners and styles on this site when there is no money at stake.

Basically, politics prevents this.

  • Also, Olympics is competing to win a medal. What system would allow for global fair competition with something as broad and diverse as martial arts. They have standardization for all sports and that would be too broad to standardize martial arts in general.
    – mutt
    Oct 5, 2017 at 22:21

To directly answer your question, it is a guess, but I'd say that politics prevents it from happening in the future, and momentum prevented it in the past.

As to politics, it's hard enough to get a bunch of grandmasters to agree on what to have for dinner, let alone agree to working together on inter-organization support for a global effort - every 4 years.

As to momentum, I think that each of the sports you mentioned (tkd, wrestling, judo, etc) got there on their own merit at different times. At the time, no one thought about combining them. Now that Taekwondo and Karate are about to show at the same time, such a question is easy to ask. Sumo also tried and failed to get in; that would be a parallel comparison to wrestling, and the same question arises: why not have one category, then lump all martial arts (tkd, karate, etc, plus the ones trying to get in) underneath that umbrella, either as a sport as they currently are, or as events, or as disciplines.

I also don't know if creating "martial arts", and then lump tkd, karate, judo, fencing, boxing, wrestling under it would shrink 28 down to 23, and then we can add more events under martial arts with impunity (eg, wushu and sumo), and then add more major sports as well to stay under that 28 limit.

Because aside from politics and momentum, there's another reason: money.

The reason 28 is set by IOC is to prevent runaway budgets a country has to incur to host the games. Whether wushu is a sport or an event, the cost to cover the entire games rises, because media time, commentators, venus, security, etc all have to handle the additional load. As to venue, perhaps the cost differential might not be that great - they can re-use it for similar sports - but still, the fact that people are there means additional infrastructure, eg security, still must be paid for.

I would love to see a great many more styles represented in the Olympics. The popularity of one style - like Taekwondo - reverberates to other styles as well, so as a community, everyone benefits.

Of course, many of us in Taekwondo also bemoan the damage the Olympics has done to the style. This is an area that doesn't answer your question about why can't there be a better structure to allow for more styles, except to say that not everyone wants more styles - that's part of the politics part.

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    +1 for the last paragraph (I'll show myself out before I can go on a rant).
    – as4s4hetic
    Sep 29, 2017 at 7:16

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