By Nick Butler

Frits Vrijlandt outlined the credentials of ice climbing as a potential Winter Olympic sport of the future ©ITGApril 12 - International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) President Frits Vrijlandt has outlined the credentials of ice climbing as the sport prepares a bid for inclusion in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The sport is yet to formally launch a campaign due to the fact the International Olympic Committee (IOC) criteria for adding in new winter sports is yet to be finalised, with no new sports having been added since curling ahead of Nagano 1998.

But positive interaction has occurred and Vrijlandt believes the sport would bring a new dimension to the programme.  

"Ice climbing is a modern sport and it brings a new dimension to the Olympic Games because it is vertical, it is the only sport that goes up," he told insidethegames.

"All others go down or stay flat.

"Our format is also very easy to understand for the audience and the two disciplines of speed and lead climbing are both very spectacular to see."

Vrijlandt hailed the popularity of the sport around the world, including in South Africa on waterfalls which freeze up in the winter, as well as the success of a long-standing World Cup circuit consisting of seven events. 

He also hailed the successful demonstration of the sport during the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February, where a 20 metre climbing wall in the Olympic Park provided an opportunity for more than 4,000 participants to try their hand at the sport.

"We were able to showcase what our sport is about," he said. 

"We were not allowed to have a competition but we had some of the best athletes of the world there and it was very good for them to be able to gain experience of the Olympic Games and a lot of people were able to see it. 

"It was great to see the enthusiasm of everyone, even if they didn't get to the top."

The ice climbing demonstration wall in the Olympic Park in Sochi ©UIAAThe ice climbing demonstration wall in the Olympic Park in Sochi ©UIAA

The UIAA, headed by Vrijlandt, is a separate body to the International Sport Climbing Federation (ISCF) after the latter broke away in 2007. 

The ICSF is now responsible for the summer discipline due to be demonstrated at the Summer Youth Olympics in Nanjing later this year following an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Olympics, but the UIAA retained responsibility for ice climbing as well as the recreational side. 

Vrijandt was critical of the decision to break away and, although not confident that the two will be united again soon, believes this would be practical as well as mutually beneficial for all concerned.

"I consider the split an historical error," he told insidethegames.

"We are all climbers - climbers, mountaineers and hill-walkers - but we are all one family and of course you can have artificial differences but it should be as part of a process.

"I was invited to give a speech at the opening of the ICSF General Assembly and I said, 'Imagine what we can achieve if we combine funds and energy'.

"It should be about joining forces and working together, but although I got a round of applause,  the [ICSF] Board were less keen and, if anything, are moving further away."

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