2 weeks after formalizing an independent review showing the success of Karate at the Tokyo Olympics and its popularity in France and in the US, the WKF president, Antonio Espinos, went upmarket by attacking Tony Estanguet and Thomas Bach directly, as revealed by our colleagues from Inside The Games. The last-chance salvo 3 months before the announcement of additional sports at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics ? Explanations and excerpts.

By Ludovic Mauchien / Photo : WKF

The WKF Congress in Dubai, during the World Championships (November 16-21), was the occasion for Antonio Espinos to present the report commissioned to the American agency Nielsen Sports on the popularity of Karate in France and in the US, host countries for the next 2 Olympic Games, during the Tokyo Olympics, compared to the 3 other additional sports included in Paris 2024 (surfing, skateboarding, climbing).

The analysis ? A final one ! Following statistics on broadcast figures, fan potential and media coverage, Karate is clearly in the lead. For example, the Steven Da Costa final was watched by almost 4 million people in France. In average audiences, only climbing shows higher figures. In addition, Nielsen Sports has shown that Karate has the greatest number of « core fans », ie people very interested in their discipline, in each of the 2 countries (US, France).

On the strength of this independent review, Antonio Espinos sent a letter to Thomas Bach including its outcome. In his mind, it forms part of the WKF’s attempt to become a core Olympic sport and gain a permanent place.

« This is a very difficult target, but as we are going to do and as we are always doing, we will continue fighting and working », he told Inside The Ring. « We won’t give up as long as I am president of the WKF. I hope it will be possible that this information, which reflects the injustice of exclusion from Paris 2024, will show the support karate has. We demonstrated in Tokyo why we should be a permanent sport and not just an additional one ».

In addition, Antonio Espinos reaffirmed that he had not given up on Karate’s inclusion for Paris 2024, despite the fact that the program was definitively confirmed by the OCOG and the IOC.

Hope is more than infinite. But, depending on what the IOC decides about the Olympic future of boxing and weightlifting, which is hanging by a thread, the situation could change.


In two weeks, the president of the WKF changed his tone. He raised it ! Continuing to rely on the Nielsen review, Antonio Espinos directly charges Tony Estanguet, the president of Paris 2024, and Thomas Bach, questioning the transparency of the choices. « Recently, the IOC President said that the decision regarding Karate was final and that it was a transparent process. I was really shocked to hear this because it is the most opaque process I have ever seen. I would like Mr. Bach to explain to me what he means by a transparent process, because it was not at all. Almost 3 years have passed, and nobody has been able to explain why karate has been excluded by the Organising Committee, by Estanguet. What has happened is not that karate has not been included. It has been excluded on purpose, which is not the same. It is a very well-kept secret what are the considerations from the IOC when deciding the Olympic programme but it should be open and transparent. With the report, it is a new confirmation that we were not saying any nonsense. The one who was saying stupidities was Estanguet » (source : Inside The Game).

The words have the merit of being clear. It sounds like a declaration of war.