Wrestling will now have to vie with seven other sports — baseball/softball, squash, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu, to be added back into the programme for the 2020 Olympics.
The decision will be taken when the full IOC session meets in September. In the same meeting, the hosts for the 2020 Olympics are likely to be announced. Three cities — Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo — are in contention to host those Games. Unlike wrestling, which has been an integral part of the modern Olympics, modern pentathlon has been under scrutiny for quite some time. However, strong lobbying is said to have saved the sport from being ousted from the Olympics programme, something that was grossly lacking in wrestling which received this bolt from the blue.
Sensing that the sport may be dropped from the future Games, the International Modern Pentathlon Federation (UIPM) had lobbied heavily ahead of Tuesday’s meeting while FILA, which has a reputation of being a rather passive organisation, sat back hardly expecting this ouster.
While pentathlon banked on the support of the ‘crucial’ executive board members, the intervention of Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr, the son of former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and vice president of UIPM, proved crucial. Wrestling did not have similar backing. “The countries that dominate wrestling are from Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The US isn’t the same power any more. The decision makers in the IOC are from Western Europe, USA and China, Japan and Korea from East Asia,” an IOC member said, not willing to be named.
However, wrestling’s fate doesn’t seem to be in its hands alone. A lot will also depend on the political dynamics and also the host city for the 2020 Olympics. “If Istanbul is elected as the host city, then wrestling’s chances will be boosted considering the sport is popular in Turkey. However, in case it’s Tokyo then you would have something like baseball or karate,” the member added. Wrestling, however, is one of the oldest sports — even featuring in the ancient Olympics — and also a core sport in the programme. In modern Olympics, it’s one of the five disciplines — athletics, swimming, cycling and gymnastics being the other four — that have stood the test of time since the first edition in 1896.
Reactions have varied across the globe, with many resenting the retaining of pentathlon, while even field hockey found its critics among the US which finds it too quaint.
The FILA officials will be meeting in Phuket over the weekend to decide the future course of action. “FILA was greatly astonished by today’s recommendation of the IOC Executive Board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games. We will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games. The FILA Bureau will meet in Phuket on February 16-17 and will address this issue in view of the presentation of wrestling in front of the IOC Executive Board in St-Petersburg next May,” the federation said in a statement.
Start, Stop, restart
Archery: Discontinued in 1920. Returned to the Olympic core sports list in the 1972 Games held in Munich.
Baseball: Became an Olympic sport in 1992 but was dropped after the 2008 Beijing Games. Aiming to be back at the 2020 Games
Golf: Was played at the 1900 and 1904 Games, and will return to the Olympic program for the 2016 Rio Games.
Rugby: Held four times between 1900 and 1924, rugby will return to the program in 2016, but with a smaller, seven-per-side version.
Tennis: Dropped after 1924 Games but included as a demonstration sport in 1968 and 1984. Returned as a full medal sport 1988 Olympics onwards
Softball: Came into the games in 1996 and was dropped after the 2008 Games. Looking to return at the 2020 Olympics
Squash: A precursor to squash, rackets was played at the 1908 London Games. Squash is one of the sports vying for inclusion for the 2020 Games, directly in competition with wrestling.