The International Olympic Committee’s executive board voted to drop wrestling from the program for the 2020 Summer Games as the body tries to keep the event fresh, a spokesman said.
The recommendation by the 15-member board will be reviewed and then a final vote will be held in September. Wrestling will get a chance to rally support and will be among eight sports vying for inclusion at the 2020 Games, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said at a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“This program is about renewing or trying to renew the program for the Olympic Games,” Adams said. “We’re looking for the 25 core sports: What is the program that works best for the Olympic Games?”
The IOC panel reviewed a report from the organization’s program commission, which assessed each of the 26 sports at last year’s London Games. The board decided to cut wrestling and keep modern pentathlon, which had been one of the sports considered for removal. The IOC systematically reviews every event following games.
The report analyzed almost 40 criteria including television appeal, anti-corruption practices and popularity. The IOC wants to add a sport to the 2020 Games and plans to remove one of the current events. Wrestling will still be automatically included on the list of candidate sports to be added in 2020.
“It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, but instead what’s right for the 25 sports for the Olympic program,” Adams said.
The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, known as FILA, said it was “greatly astonished” by the recommendation, and that it would work to convince the IOC to keep the sport, which consists of two disciplines: Greco-Roman, where athletes use their upper bodies and arms only, and freestyle, where athletes can use any part of their bodies.
Russia won 11 wrestling medals at the London Games last year, with four golds. Japan also had four gold medalists and six total medals, while Iran had three golds among six won in the sport. Azerbaijan had seven medals in London, including two golds, equaling the number of winners for the U.S., which had four wrestling medals in total.
FILA “is represented in 180 countries, with wrestling being the national sport in a fair amount of them and the only possibility for athletes to represent their country at the Olympic Games,” the governing body said today in a statement on its website.
Greco-Roman had seven weight categories, and is only for male athletes. Freestyle also has seven weight classes for men, and four for women. Eight years after the Greco-Roman style was featured in the Athens Games of 1896, freestyle was added in St. Louis. Women’s competition started in Athens in 2004.
Greco-Roman wrestling was incorporated into the modern Olympics in 1896 because organizers considered it historically significant. It was part of the games in Olympia, Greece, as early as 708 B.C., when wrestlers in loincloths would coat themselves in olive oil and grapple against a backdrop of temples and statues, according to the 2011 book “Power Games: Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics,” by David Stuttard.
Baseball and softball were the most recent sports to be removed from the Olympics following a 2005 vote and last appeared at the 2008 Beijing Games. Golf and rugby sevens will join the program at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Wrestling will join baseball and softball, which are seeking inclusion as two disciplines under a single sports banner, karate, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wakeboard and the Chinese martial art of wushu in trying to get added to the 2020 schedule.
The IOC’s executive board will meet May 29-31 in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for inclusion in 2020. A final vote take place in September at a full meeting of IOC members in Buenos Aires, where a ballot will also decide which city out of Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo hosts the event.
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