Karate President Antonio Espinos Discusses The Olympic Dream

World Karate Federation President Antonio Espinos Discusses the Olympic DreamOn Monday, Japan will reveal which sporting events are to be added to the roster for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Of the eight events under consideration, karate is likely to be one those chosen, according to insiders. JRT recently spoke with Antonio Espinos, head of the World Karate Federation, the body recognized by the International Olympic Committee to represent the sport, about karate’s chances.

JRT: Why wasn’t karate chosen to become an Olympic event in the past?

AE: It was almost impossible to come in. Why it was so difficult to come in? Because to come in, someone had to go out. It was impossible for someone to go out. The Olympic charter said “no more than 28 sports” and there were 28 sports.

Fortunately the new (IOC) president Thomas Bach, who was selected in 2013, two years ago, has gotten some changes approved by the IOC that have made this process much more dynamic and given new opportunities. Now, this additional possibility that the host country chooses some events, which was not the case before, this has given us this opportunity.

If you have seen, karate has been shortlisted by the IOC three times. This is because the IOC has the perception that karate deserves to be in the Olympics.

JRT: How will you keep the Japanese tradition alive in the event?

AE: The Japanese tradition is inside karate. You only have to watch karate competition and techniques, the values of fairness and humility, and you will see the reflection of Japanese society and the values that Japan has transmitted to the worldwide society of karate. These Japanese values are inside us and will be shown and transmitted to the whole world through the Olympics.

In the end, the Olympics will be a catalyst for karate and for showing the billions of people who will see the Olympics on the television where karate comes from and what are the values of the Japanese budo culture.

JRT: What will be the impact on karate if it joins the Olympics?

AE: Mainly the Olympics will make to be the catalyst of the social contribution that karate can make around the world.

If you have looked to Europe or wealthy countries, of course the Olympic sports get much more funding, but then again the non-Olympic sports also get some funding. But if you look at the countries under development, only the Olympic sports get some funding. The non-Olympic sports get nothing.

For karate to be an Olympic sport would help to boost the possibility of adding millions of children to the practice of karate. Karate has tremendous educational background and would be able to develop the social contribution [of karate] better and faster than today.

JRT: There are many different styles of karate. What do you say to people who say that different styles should also be included in the Olympics?

AE: In karate there are styles, cultures, opinions, groups, but 40 years ago, it was a group…later on called the World Karate Federation, which was the only one that could unify all cultures and styles of karate.

We have 190 federations. We have millions and millions of affiliates. We represent more than 90% of organized karate.

This is not a message for exclusion. This is a message for inclusion and welcome for all those outside the federation.

If karate is chosen by Tokyo 2020, and later on ratified by the International Olympic Committee, we will send a message to all those small groups that are outside and say: “You still have time to adapt to our rules and to give your athletes the opportunity to compete in Tokyo 2020.”

JRT: Would you like to see karate be a permanent sport in the Olympics?

AE: Yes, it’s our main objective. In the World Karate Federation and the world of karate, the Olympics are perceived as the pinnacle of achievement by everybody without any exceptions. Due all the benefits that I’ve highlighted, it would be like a dream to be a permanent sport in the Olympics. It would bring so many benefits to society.