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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Tokyo Olympics will feature six new or returning sports, giving this year's Games a record 41 disciplines and 339 gold medals.

  • Returning: Baseball, softball
  • New: Surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, karate

The backdrop: In 2014, the IOC gave organizing committees the ability to propose new sports for inclusion. Tokyo's committee was the first to have this opportunity, and in 2016 the IOC green-lit every proposal.

The big picture: It's no accident that many of these new Olympic sports have audiences that skew younger than average.

  • "We want to take sport to the youth," IOC president Thomas Bach said in 2016. "Taken together, the [new sports] are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games."
  • By the numbers: Olympic viewers' median age has been rising, with the 2016 Rio Games drawing 30% fewer TV viewers aged 18-34 than the 2012 London Games.

Let's meet the sports ...

Photo: Yuichi Masuda/Getty Images

Baseball and softball: They both debuted in the 1990s, but have been gone since 2008. Softball is already underway, with Japan beating Australia, 8-0, and the U.S. beating Italy, 2-0, in opening day action.

  • Schedule: July 20-27 (softball); July 27-Aug. 7 (baseball)

Surfing: Debuting in 2016 on the surf-crazed beaches of Rio would have made for a better spectacle — and featured bigger waves. But there's still tons of excitement for what World Surf League CEO Erik Logan says is "validation for people who've devoted their life to this sport."

  • Schedule: July 24-27
Street (front) and park (back) sections for Olympic skateboarding. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Skateboarding: No longer resigned "just" to the X Games, skaters will compete in two events in Tokyo: street (think: rails and staircases) and park (think: big tricks in an empty swimming pool).

  • Schedule: July 24-25; Aug. 3-4

Sport climbing: Men and women will each compete in just one event, combining three formats: speed (fastest up a 15-meter wall), bouldering (think: climbing gym) and lead climbing (six minutes to get as high as possible on a very difficult wall).

  • Schedule: Aug. 3-6

Karate: 82 karatekas will compete in kumite (sparring) at three different weight classes, as well as kata — a demonstration of skills akin to gymnastics' floor exercise.

  • Schedule: Aug. 4-7

Go deeper: Sport-by-sport schedule (NBC)

Go deeper

Jul 19, 2021 - Sports

Poll: Gymnastics is Americans' most highly anticipated Olympic sport

Expand chart
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Gymnastics is the most highly anticipated Olympic event among U.S. adults, according to a new Morning Consult survey.

By the numbers: 62% of respondents said they were somewhat or very interested in watching gymnastics, which is headlined by Team USA's biggest star, Simone Biles.

Updated Jul 23, 2021 - Axios Denver

Colorado athletes to watch at the Tokyo Olympics

Expand chart
Data: Team USA; Cartogram: Connor Rothschild/Axios

Colorado counts 34 athletes in the Olympic Games in more than 14 sports and 23 disciplines, according to Team USA.

Why it matters: We love to cheer for our hometown heroes as they go for the gold!

By the numbers: Colorado's athlete count is the third most in the nation — behind California's 126 and Florida's 51, according to an Axios analysis.

  • The athletes self-report their hometowns.
  • In reality, dozens more Olympians live in Colorado because they train here — and the same goes for athletes from other countries, too.

Meet the athletes here:

Updated 23 hours ago - Sports

U.S. women's soccer team seeks redemption on Olympic stage

Megan Rapinoe, 15, of the United States reacts during her team's 3-0 loss on July 21. Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

The U.S. women's national soccer team boasts back-to-back World Cup champion status, has ranked first or second in the world every year since 2003 and until Wednesday's opener against Sweden, had not lost a game in 44 matches.

The big picture: But after a disappointing performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the women failed to reach the gold medal game for the first time in history, the team is looking for redemption on the Olympic stage in Tokyo.

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