It seems like a long ways away but the 2012 Olympics to be held in London are just around the corner. Already work has begun to get ready for this major event. Taekwondo, one of the events at this year's Olympics, has received several key changes in hopes to remain a sport on the world stage.
During the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, Taekwondo meet with a lot of controversy. Scoring was done manually by four corner judges, much as it would in any normal martial arts tournament. However, when presented on a world stage, it led to discrepancies and eventually an overturn of original results.
Not only was the scoring of great concern, so was the audience it drew. The attendance was lower than hoped. The normally flashy kicks and acrobatic moves that made Taekwondo so popular were hard to find during the Olympic bouts.
For the 2012 Olympics, Taekwondo officials are hoping to put into place some critical changes that will improve the sport. First off, they are moving to an electronic scoring and video replay system. Competitors will wear electronic body protectors that only register if a kick or punch is delivered with sufficient force. Coaches have the right to call for at least one video replay per match to dispute a ruling immediately, rather than waiting for after the fight.
In addition to going high-tech, they have made changes to the event itself. The ring will be smaller to encourage engagement. There are penalties now applied for inactivity for any fighter that doesn't throw a punch or kick. And the biggest change, more points are now scored for kicks delivered to the head.
All these changes will impact how competitors perform during the 2012 Olympics. The new changes were tested at the recent British Open and were meet with mix responses. While the matches were indeed more elaborate in terms of fancy kicks, many traditionalists feel they have cheapened the event.
Ri Yong Son, chief director of the International Taekwondo Federation, has been quoted as saying "Olympic Taekwondo is not Taekwondo. There is no understanding of the martial arts philosophy."(1)
But others, such as the British team coach says, "The race for medals may take away a little bit from the martial art, but it's more dynamic and modern now."(1)
Will these changes make a difference in the 2012 Olympics?
Only time will tell. The threat is that if no changes come or these changes do not improve the sport we may see the introduction of martial arts platforms like karate or wushu. Or the removal of this martial arts venue all together from any future Olympics
Will you be watching the Olympics this summer? I for one am looking forward to seeing what transpires at this coming 2012 Olympics.
(1)"Olympic taekwondo ditches traditional origins" by Associated Press. October 3, 2011