Taekwondo worked hard to achieve its spot as an Olympic sport a mere 16 years ago, and is only assured that privilege until the 2020 Games. This “probationary” exhibition is insulting to many of the athletes, but was imposed to see if the sport would attract a large enough demographic to the Games.
In a bid to make this martial art more appealing, the traditional white uniforms will be replaced with colorful pants with country’s flags on them. The hope is that it feels more like other sports where athletes are distinguished from each other by their country’s colors. And taking a cue from the popularity of MMA, the traditionally square competition floor will be replaced with an octagonal one in hopes that the huge fan base of MMA pays more attention to the competition.
The kicker is that athletes can choose their own theme music as they enter the arena. Now really. Is this a talk show? A presidential campaign? The Hunger Games? How far does a sport have to reach to prove its legitimacy? The World Taekwondo Federation did its part by adding sensors to to the athletes gear to reduce controversial calls which have plagued the sport for a long time. Also introduced is the instant replay. Yep – you heard right. Another sport joins the crowd of overruling referees. Taekwondo is poised to make a very new and interesting entrance at the Rio Games. Should be fascinating to watch.
Whether you’re in favor of the changes or not, a martial arts fan has to be encouraged that the sport is doing all it can to keep itself in the Olympic Games legitimately. In the end, we just hope it’s enough.