How Many Summer Olympic Sports Are There?

The Summer Olympics are held every four years and there are currently 34 sports on the schedule. Here’s a quick look at all the sports that will be contested at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

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The Olympics are a time when the world comes together to celebrate humanity and its accomplishments. Every two years, athletes from all over the globe come together to compete in a wide variety of sports. But just how many sports are there in the Summer Olympics?

As it turns out, the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes 35 different sports, but the number of events that are contested at each Summer Olympics can vary. For example, there were 42 different sports contested at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but only 28 sports will be on the program for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

So, if we’re talking about the number of events that are contested at each Summer Olympics, then the answer is somewhere between 28 and 42. But if we’re talking about the number of distinct sports that are recognized by the IOC, then the answer is 35.

A Brief History of the Summer Olympics

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. Since then, the Summer Olympic Games have been held every four years, with the exception of two occasions: in 1916, due to World War I, and in 1940 and 1944, due to World War II.

TheSummer Olympics are now the world’s largest athletic event. More than 11,000 athletes from 204 nations compete in 306 events in 28 different sports.

The 2020 Summer Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan.

The Number of Sports at the Summer Olympics

The number of sports at the Summer Olympics has varied over the years, but there have been a total of 34 different sports represented at the games in one way or another since they began in 1896.

Some sports, like baseball and softball, were once included but are no longer part of the Summer Games program. Others, like rugby sevens and golf, have only recently been added.

Here is a complete list of all the sports that have been contested at the Summer Olympics throughout history:

Aquatics (Swimming, Diving, Synchronized Swimming, Water Polo)
Canoeing/Kayaking (Slalom, Sprint)
Cycling (Mountain Bike, Road, Track)
Equestrian (Dressage, Eventing, Show Jumping)
Field hockey
Football (Association football) Gymnastics (Artistic gymnastics, Rhythmic gymnastics) Handball Judo Karate Modern pentathlon Rowing Rugby sevens Sailing Shooting Softball* Sport climbing Surfing** Taekwondo Tennis* Triathlon Volleyball Weightlifting Wrestling Yachting***

* Softball and tennis were featured as demonstration sports at past Summer Olympics but are no longer on the program. Baseball was also a demonstration sport in 1992 but is not currently on the program.

** Surfing will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

*** Yachting was featured as a demonstration sport at past Summer Olympics but is no longer on the program.

Why the Number of Sports Varies

The number of sports contested at the Summer Olympics has varied widely over the years. In 1900, nine sports were on the programme, while 102 disciplines from 43 sports were part of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London featured 26 sports with 39 disciplines.

The reason for this variation is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is responsible for deciding which sports are included in the Games, only recognises a sport if it is widely practised around the world and if it meets certain criteria. For a sport to be selected for the Olympics, it must be governed by an international federation (IF), which oversees its rules and regulations. The IOC also requires that the sport has an international competition structure, with opportunities for athletes to progress from grassroots level to elite level.

How the Number of Sports Affects Athletes

The answer to how many summer Olympic sports are there really depends on how you count them. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes 35 sports, while the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) lists 50.

The difference is that the IOC only counts a sport if it is contested at the summer Olympics. So, for example, rugby sevens is an IOC-recognized sport, but rugby union is not because it hasn’t been contested at the Summer Olympics since 1924. The GAISF, on the other hand, recognizes both rugby sevens and rugby union as sports.

The number of sports contested at the Summer Olympics has varied over the years. At the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, there were nine sports on the program. This grew to 15 by London 1912 and reached a peak of 28 byLos Angeles 1984. For Atlanta 1996, the number was decreased to a core program of 25 sports. Since then, there have been some additions and subtractions from this list of summer Olympic sports. For example, baseball and softball were added for Beijing 2008 but then removed for London 2012. Skateboarding was added for Tokyo 2020.

The number of events within each sport also varies. For example, there are 26 events in athletics (track and field), but only 12 events in aquatics (swimming). This means that the total number of events at a Summer Olympics can also fluctuate somewhat from one games to the next.

With such a large number of athletes competing in so many different sports, the question arises as to whether or not every sport really gets its fair share of attention during an Olympic Games


There are a total of 33 sports on the program for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. This is three more sports than the program for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games, which featured 30 sports. Tokyo 2020 will also feature 50 disciplines within those 33 sports.

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