During this week’s International Olympic Committee meetings in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Olympic wrestling won the privilege to return to the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games as an event. The reprieve comes seven months after the sport was recommended to be dropped from the Games.
In the voting round, wrestling assembled 49 votes, baseball-softball claimed 24 and squash garnered 22. Had wrestling had two less votes, a second round of voting would have been initiated. Wrestling benefits partly by its history, being an event held in every modern Olympics except in 1900 and being an original event of the ancient Games.
Nenad Lalovic, president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), thanked the IOC for the ability to present a plea for the sport. “Today is the most important day in the 3,000-year history of our sport. And believe me, we feel the weight of that history... Remaining in the Olympic program is crucial to our survival,” Lalovic stated. But the sport is not a permanent element of the Games just yet, only safe through the 2024 running.
IOC president Jacques Rogge explained the reasoning for shifting events in and out of the program, saying it, “must remain dynamic… That is essential for the success of the Olympic Games.” Rugby and golf join the roster for the 2016 Olympics. In 2005, baseball and softball were dropped as of last year’s Games. The sports were relatively new additions to the Olympics, joining in the 1990’s. Squash was out for its first attempt at inclusion, claiming to be, “a sport that represents the future, not the past.”
Voting is conducted through secret ballots, as is the selection of host city for the Games. Tokyo triumphed on Saturday, winning its bid to host the 2020 Summer Games. The last major decision of the IOC session in Argentina is the replacement of 12-year veteran president Rogge. That vote will happen Tuesday.
IOC members recommended wrestling be eliminated over issues it lacked, namely gender equality, administrative athlete representation, simple rules and a large following. Sport participants and enthusiasts put on a broad campaign to save the sport, making major changes to the wrestling federation including the resignation of FILA president Raphael Martinetti who was replaced by Lalovic. Two women’s weight classes replaced two men’s weight classes. Rules were simplified and were altered to benefit more aggressive match strategies.
In their social media accounts, FILA encouraged supporters to #SaveOlympicWrestling and #TakeAStance which prompted photos of fans in a wrestling stance from all over the globe (as seen above from supporters in France).[Image via FILA Facebook.]