Aquatics Passes Athletics For Most Finals At 2020 Olympics

With additions of three more medal events at the 2020 Olympics, the discipline of aquatics will overtake athletics for the most total Olympic finals, 49 to 48.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced some major changes today to its 2020 Olympic program, including the addition of three events to the pool swimming lineup: the women’s 1500 free, men’s 800 free and the mixed 4×100 medley relay. That brings the aquatics total to 49, including subcategories swimming, marathon swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo. Here’s a full breakdown of the finals in each:

  • Swimming: 35
  • Marathon (open water) swimming: 2
  • Water polo: 2
  • Diving: 8
  • Synchronized swimming: 2

The overall umbrella of aquatics will now have 49 different finals in Tokyo, passing up the 48 contested in athletics, which governs all track and field events. Previously, athletics was the discipline with the most Olympic finals with 47 in Rio. (Aquatics had 46 at that point). Athletics, like swimming, added a mixed relay to the 2020 lineup, the mixed 4×400 relay.

Aquatics and athletics run far ahead of all other sports, with the next-highest total number of finals being cycling at 22.

FINA, the international governing body for aquatics sports, applauded the event additions in a press release today, saying that Olympic aquatics are “going from strength to strength.” FINA president Julio Maglione said the sport has earned its place at the top of the Olympics because of “the incredible attractiveness of our competitions shown by TV viewers.”


Here’s the full FINA press release:

Following decisions taken today by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), FINA expressed its great satisfaction at the addition of three swimming medal events and two women’s water polo teams for the programme of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The additional medal events are 800 metres freestyle (men), 1500 metres freestyle (women) and a 4×100 mixed medley relay.

“Aquatics at the Olympic Games are going from strength to strength,” said FINA President Julio Maglione

“After earning a place in the top group of sports at the Olympic Games, thanks to the incredible attractiveness of our competitions shown by TV viewers, the IOC has now rewarded us by giving FINA more events on the programme. It is an immense and deeply humbling honour for FINA to have reached the very top.”

At Tokyo 2020, FINA will become the sport with the greatest number (49) of finals on the Olympic programme, with 35 for swimming, eight for diving, two for water polo, two for marathon swimming and two for synchronised swimming.

“The addition of three events for Tokyo 2020 means FINA is well positioned to continue its leadership in terms of broadcast demand and digital interest,” continued President Maglione.

The event additions proposed by FINA and accepted by the IOC fill gender gaps in the swimming programme, with 800 metres and 1500 metres freestyle now being available to both genders. Also helping reach gender equality across aquatics was the IOC’s decision to expand the number of teams in the women’s water polo competition from eight to ten. 

“FINA is proud to be a sport that cherishes fundamental Olympic values,” added President Maglione. “These achievements are due to the valuable work and support from our 208 National Member Federations, and respective athletes, coaches and officials, and represent a great responsibility, as we have to work hard not only to maintain our status, but if possible to still improve it in the future.”

The new Olympic swimming events, as well as water polo and the full range of FINA disciplines will be showcased next month during the 17th FINA World Championships in Budapest.

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Coach Mike 1952

Wonderful that swimming is finally beginning to get its due. Glad this rumor is now fact. Of course, now the discussion begins, such as (but certainly not limited to:) 1. When will the distance events be contested? Cannot imagine anything more than as bookends to the pool swimming competition with both the 800 M & 1500 women. How fitting that KL has a chance to get the OR also for the 1500. 2. Will the schedule be expanded to allow more rest? More to follow…


That was my question too. What’s the schedule going to look like? Will Katie have to drop an event/relay in order to compete the 1500? Looking forward to getting some answers, hopefully sooner than later.


“finally beginning to get its due”? Didn’t we have over 30 events before this? I think it’d be getting it’s due when they stop cutting to commercials during pool distance events.


Yea. Also, Swimming was the most watched sport overall right. The only thing that probably beat it was the women’s all around final

Coach Mike 1952

Good ;point – to clarify further, I meant with the IOC. They had ignored the need for a women’s 1500 in particular forever until now. The old thinking was women were too frail for a 1500, but then there’s the 5K & 10K, right? Non sequitur. And yes, the next step is to NOT cut to commercials during distance race. In OZ (Australia), I understand that the distance swimming is considered one of (if not THE) hottest prime time event – whenever it occurs, day or night. Can someone from down under confirm please? (I am also a fan of the rugged ARF – Australian Rules Football) too.


Should have finally added all the 50’s instead.


Hi Mike,

To answer your question – distance freestyle still attracts great interest in Australia, just not quite as much as when Hackett and Perkins were swimming.

Coach Mike 1952

Thank you


I’m sorry, but it is RIDICULOUS to count waterpolo and diving in the same category as swimming for this comparison just because they all involve water; if you do, to be consistent, you have to include soccer and gymnastics, etc, etc, with athletics because they all take place on LAND!


Athletics includes track, throws, jumps, multi-events (decathlon and heptathlon), funny walks and the marathon. Do triple jump, hammer throw and a 50km walk really have more in common than swimming and waterpolo do?

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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