By Sam Nussey and Rozanna Latiff
TOKYO (Reuters) – Commentators at climbing’s Olympic debut in Tokyo are compensating for mostly empty venues with a wall of encouragement for the athletes, as the sport’s inclusion brings a splash of youth appeal to the world’s largest sporting event.
The in-venue commentary mixes American can-do-ism — “C’mon! Push the button!” — with European phrases like “Allez! Allez!” and “Venga! Venga!” as athletes grapple with knotty bouldering problems and the lead wall.
The language reflects not only climbing’s geographic heartlands but also its countercultural leanings and tradition of positivity and overcoming personal challenges.
The commentary has been given a Tokyo twist with shouts of “Ganba! Ganba!”, which derives from the Japanese exclamation of “Ganbare!” — roughly translating as “Hang in there!”
The action across three events — speed, bouldering and lead — is soundtracked by an electronic beat in marked contrast with more traditional Olympic sports which play out to hushed venues.
Few are present to enjoy the show. Spectators are banned as part of COVID-19 countermeasures in Japan’s capital, which is in a state of emergency.
Reflecting the culture of sportsmanship in climbing, before the lead event, a test of endurance and technical ability, athletes from different nations stood in huddles discussing the best routes up the wall.
The commentary helped to provide an informal feel to proceedings. U.S. climber Nathaniel Coleman’s performance was met with cries of “Captain America!”
Climbing is part of an influx of new sports as organisers seek to broaden the appeal of the Games. Breakdancing will debut at Paris in 2024.
(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Christian Radnedge)