Karate-After long battle, karate gets long-awaited chance on biggest stage

Karate has fought a long, hard battle to earn its place as an Olympic sport. Despite its 100 million practitioners worldwide, a solid place in popular culture and a rich history that some say can be traced back to the 15th century, the Japanese martial art’s bid to join the Olympics had been rejected three times, including, initially, for Tokyo 2020. Lobbied by then-chief cabinet secretary and current prime minister Yoshihide Suga, karate officially won its place two years later to join fellow Asian martial arts judo and taekwondo on the big stage in Tokyo.

German karateka sets sights on Olympics

(SOUNDBITE) (German) OLYMPIC HOPEFUL IN KARATE, JASMIN JUETTNER, DOING A KICK TOWARDS THE CAMERA, SAYING:”My name is Jasmin Juettner, I’m 28 years old and I want to use this once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in the Olympic Games as a karateka.”Jasmin Juettner is fighting for a spot at the Tokyo Olympicswhich will be the first Games to feature karate(SOUNDBITE) (German) OLYMPIC HOPEFUL IN KARATE, JASMIN JUETTNER, SAYING:”I was super excited at the beginning and thought it would be so cool to go to the Olympics and that I had a good chance, and then we realized that only 10 athletes could take part in each category, and it was like a war started. And there were basically two years of qualifiers where every couple of weeks we had to head off somewhere across the globe to try and collect points for Tokyo. It was a pretty crazy time, and even with the training, we had to intensify the sessions but it was super exciting and very cool.”Of 190 athletes that are members of the World Karate Federationonly 80 will be able to attend the Olympicsand only 10 athletes will compete in each event

What are the key issues facing Tokyo Olympics?

The countdown is on for the Tokyo Olympics.The Games are scheduled for July 23 to August 8, and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.The one-year delay has already brought with it plenty of complications, and there are still some unanswered questions regarding things like: spectator numbers, and the so-called ‘Playbooks’.Some 11,000 Olympic athletes will compete in 33 sports, while over 4,000 Paralympians will compete across 22 sports.But with Japan’s elderly population only just starting to receive inoculations – there will be a need for restrictions still.International spectators will not be allowed. (SOUNDBITE) (Japanese) TOKYO 2020 PRESIDENT, SEIKO HASHIMOTO, SAYING:”I myself as an athlete participated in the Olympics a number of times so the fact that overseas spectators are not able to attend the Games is very disappointing.”Organizers plan to decide in April on the maximum number of local fans permitted in venues.Japanese sports arenas have been recently been operating at up to 50% capacity.Are athletes required to be vaccinated?The simple answer is: No.But the International Olympic Committee urges them to be vaccinated once vaccinations are made available to the general population of their countries.Participants must follow the health guidelines in their “Playbook.”What is it?First unveiled in February, the ”Playbooks” outline the rules that all Games participants must follow.That includes mandatory mask-wearing, keeping 2-metres’ distance from athletes, and clapping instead of singing or shouting to show support.Athletes will also be tested at least once every four days.(SOUNDBITE) (English) JOHN COATES, IOC COORDINATION COMMISSION CHAIR, SAYING:”I have no hesitation in saying that the Games will take place and they’ll be the safest Games possible.”Japan is holding several test events – seen as dress rehearsals to confirm the Games’ operational capabilities at venues and test out health protocols.Early May will see four such events with athletes coming from abroad.There will be no shortage of compelling action once the Games kick off.Four sports will debut at this year’s Olympics: karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding.Several stars from French judoka Teddy Riner to American swimmer Katie Ledecky will be back in the quest for more gold.Japanese swimmer Rikako Ikee competing after her recovery from leukaemia will no doubt be among the most emotional moments of the Games.