Eight sports compete for inclusion in 2020 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee [IOC] is due to announce on Wednesday which of eight sports remain in the hunt for a place at the 2020 Olympics.

Squash, wrestling, karate and sport climbing are among the favourites  to progress to a three-strong shortlist.

They face competition from wushu, wakeboarding, roller sports and a joint baseball/softball bid.

The IOC is due to make its final pick in September, when it will also decide which city will host the 2020 Games.

Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo are the candidate cities.

A spot on the Olympic programme came up for grabs when wrestling was initially dropped in February. However, a high-profile global campaign has raised the prospect of a surprise reprieve.

Ahead of Wednesday's announcement, BBC Sport profiles the eight disciplines bidding for Olympic inclusion.

BASEBALL / SOFTBALL:

What is it? The first game of baseball as we know it was officially played by men in June 1838  in Ontario, Canada. Softball , a variant of baseball played traditionally by women with a larger ball on a smaller field, came into being in the late 19th century.

With around 65 million active players around the world, baseball and softball ranks as the largest sport not in the Olympic programme.

Softball

Olympic history? Baseball first appeared at the Olympics in 1904 and made eight appearances between then and 1988 as a demonstration sport. It was finally granted official medal status for the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Softball, solely for women, was introduced to the Olympics at Atlanta 1996. Along with baseball, it was dropped from the Olympic programme after the 2008 Games in Beijing, with the IOC citing a lack of wide-spread international interest in the sports.

Why should it be in the Olympics? The IOC want potential Olympic sports to demonstrate not only their global appeal but also their ability to inspire both genders, hence why a joint bid is vital if either baseball - played by men - or softball - played by women - is to ever win back a place in the Games.

"Both sports are growing, building on their traditional bases in the Americas and Asia and expanding rapidly in Africa and Europe," said international federation co-president Don Porter. "The sports are booming in countries like China, Brazil, Spain and Italy."

KARATE:

What is it? Karate is a martial art with its roots set firmly in Japan. In competition, two karatekas can use any variety of allowed scoring techniques. Punches, kicks, take-downs and sweeps can all be used to score, with the target areas being any part of the body above the belt, apart from the throat.

Karate

The bout runs for a fixed time of two to four minutes. The clock stops for judgements and points awards. Points are awarded based on the criteria for good form, sporting attitude, vigorous application, awareness, good timing and correct distance.

Olympic history? Karate is officially recognised by the IOC, but has never appeared at a Games. In 2005, it did not quite get the two-thirds majority required to become an official Olympic sport.

Why should it be in the Olympics? "There are over 100 million people worldwide who take part in karate," said British karate coach Jonathan Mottram. "With it in the Olympics, there are so many people that we could inspire and bring through to be great competitive athletes in the future."

ROLLER SPORTS:

What is it? The discipline of inline speed skating holds World Championships every year on both road and track circuits.

Roller sports

Competition distances range from a 200m individual sprint time trial up to a mass-participation full marathon. The 2020 Olympic bid includes no marathon - the distances proposed are 300m, 500m, 1km, 10km and 15km.

Olympic history? Roller sports have never been included as part of an Olympic Games programme, but this is the second time they have bid for inclusion and their popularity with young people does fit well with the IOC's target of modernising the Olympics.

Why should it be in the Olympics? "We are a young, dynamic sport and we've got 50 million people around the world participating," said former British champion John Fry. "It's fast, it's exciting and it's a sport for the 21st century."

SPORT CLIMBING:

What is it? In March, sport climbing's international governing body changed its proposal. After initially favouring a single 'lead' discipline, it is now backing an innovative triathlon-esq competition comprising of bouldering as well as speed and lead climbing.

Why climbing should be an Olympic sport

In speed climbing, competitors race up identical routes to see who gets to the top in the fastest time. Lead climbing tests the endurance of climbers as they compete with ropes to see who can get highest. Bouldering is viewed as the ultimate test of strength and power, with climbers negotiating a tricky route without the use of ropes or harnesses. At the Olympics, it would take place on artificially created boulders.

Olympic history? No form of competitive climbing has ever been contested at an Olympics. It was only formally recognised by the IOC in 2010, so this is the first time the sport has bid for a place in the Games.

The sport is still growing, but the 2012 World Championships in France attracted athletes from over 50 nations - more than sports such as track cycling, rowing and diving have achieved in recent years.

Why should it be in the Olympics? "Climbing fits with the Olympic motto of 'faster, higher, stronger' perfectly," said GB climber Molly Thompson-Smith. Double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes is also a fan of the sport. "It has strength, power and, from an energetic sports perspective, hits all the marks with a real 'wow' factor," she said.

SQUASH:

What is it? Squash is a high-speed racquet sport played by two or four players in a four-walled court with a small, hollow rubber ball. Each wall has an in-line, below which the ball must be hit.

Players exchange shots, hitting the ball against the front wall, and win a point when their opponent cannot successfully make a return. Games are played to 11 but players must win by two clear points.

Youth players sample oldest squash court

Olympic history? With wide-spread global participation and strong revenue streams, squash sees itself as every bit an Olympic sport. Yet it has twice been denied a place in the Games in the last eight years.

Squash officials have listened and learnt from the IOC on the back of previous bids. They believe their case is strong following a number of innovations in recent years, like state-of-the-art glass courts and super-slow motion filming.

Why should it be in the Olympics? "First of all, it fits the Olympic ideals of 'higher, faster, stronger'," said GB's former world number one Nick Matthew. "It's a very gladiatorial sport, very fast paced and very exhilarating to watch. It's also been voted the world's healthiest sport and the Olympic Games will be our pinnacle."

WAKEBOARDING:

What is it? Cable wakeboarding is the proposal that the IOC is considering. It differs from the more traditional version of the sport in which participants are towed by a boat and use the wake created to jump, flip and spin in the air. In cable wakeboarding, participants are pulled by an overhead cable.

Wakeboarding

Olympic history? Wakeboarding claims to have been chasing the Olympic dream for more than 40 years after being selected as a demonstration sport back in 1972. It was picked by the Greek National Organising Committee to be a "new" addition for the Athens Games in 2004, but a subsequent limit on numbers resulted in that decision being overturned.

Why should it be in the Olympics? "If the IOC genuinely wishes to attract an entirely new youth-driven gender-balanced healthy lifestyle sport with a low cost of participation to the 2020 Games, wakeboard really ticks all the boxes," said international federation chairman Des Burke-Kennedy. "Our commitment to become Olympic is total and will continue no matter what."

WRESTLING:

What is it? In essence the sport, which is split into Greco-Roman and Freestyle disciplines, sees two men or two women wrestle in physical hand-to-hand combat until one is declared the winner.

In Greco-Roman wrestling, it is forbidden to hold the opponent below the belt, to trip and to actively use the legs in the execution of any action. In Freestyle wrestling. competitors have greater freedom and can use not only their arms and bodies but also their legs in order to overpower and gain total control of an opponent.

Wrestlers from Russia, the US and Iran form alliance

In a recent rule change, the sport will now be contested over two three-minute rounds rather than three two-minute rounds.

Olympic history? With the exception of Paris 1900, wrestling has appeared at every Olympics dating from the ancient 708 BC Games. However, it was not until 2004 that female wrestling was introduced.

Although previously considered one of the 'core' Olympic sports, a review following the 2012 Games in London recommended its removal and the sport was provisionally dropped from the Olympic programme.

Why should it be in the Olympics? The sport has certainly come out fighting since learning it would be axed from the 2020 Games programme, with traditional foes Iran, Russia and the United States forming an unlikely alliance in a bid to restore the sport's Olympic status.

"Wrestling should be included in the 2020 Olympics as it was one of the original sports in the modern Olympic Games," said GB's European silver medallist Yana Stadnik. "Unlike many other sports, the Olympic Games is the pinnacle of a wrestler's career."

WUSHU

What is it? Wushu is better known in the west as Kung Fu. There are two major disciplines for competition: Taolu (forms) and Sanda (full contact fighting). Only Taolu, in which competitors are judged on pre-determined moves often incorporating the symbolic use of weaponry, is being put forward for 2020.

The weapons consist of long spears and cudgels, short straight swords and broad swords. The points system is similar to ice skating. Each athlete starts with 10 points, losing marks for each mistake made during the routine.

Wushu

Olympic history? Wushu has never been an official sport at an Olympics, although China sent a demonstration team to the 1936 Games in Berlin.

Why should it be in the Olympics? "Wushu has 5000 years of history, culture and philosophy to bring to the Olympic family," said international federation vice-chairman Peter Warr.

"At the World Wushu Championships in Macau last year, an IOC inspection team observed the competition and their feedback was very positive. They said there is nothing in the Olympic martial art format as fast, powerful, graceful, acrobatic of hand and weapon forms that is so exhilarating for spectators."