Buenos Aires, Argentina – After a complex campaign by sports vying to be included in the Olympic Games that involved dropping wrestling from the core program, then having it shortlisted and finally voted back in, nothing really changed.
Or did it?
On life support, wrestling made drastic changes – to its constitution, to its organization and to its sport. Now it’s more modern and more entertaining, and has been re-introduced to the world. It’s a better sport.
So is FILA President Nenad Lalovic happy that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board put wrestling through this constructive exercise?
“No,” he said shaking his head and dropping it into his hands.
But he continued “the biggest value of this campaign was to modernize our sport and our federation. This crisis gave us the strength to change. And we finally found out we can change.”
“Everybody has to understand what is going on, and why we want to be a core sport in four years. We continue to work, this is the first step.”
“I would like to offer my congratulations to the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge.
“Wrestling has shown great passion and resilience in the last few months.
The wrestling presentation team had two Canadian Olympic wrestling medalists, one of them was Sydney 2000 Gold Medalist Daniel Igali.
“Wrestling wanted to capture the versatility of the cultures in the world,” he said.
Carol (Huynh) is Asian-Canadian, I am African-Canadian, we had someone from France, Lalovic is obviously from Serbia, so it kind of captured the essence of what wrestling is around the world.”
American film star Billy Baldwin has been an advocate for wrestling, a sport he enjoyed at the varsity level. He said he has approached his Hollywood friends who were also wrestlers to donate auction items to support the wrestling campaign.
Baldwin told GamesBids.com “not having wrestling in the Olympics is like not having fireworks at the Fourth of July. It just doesn’t add up, it doesn’t make sense. And they’ve corrected that today, and in a weird way we’ve learned from this process and I think the IOC learned from this process too.”
Now that wrestling has been voted back in to the Games, the sports program remains as it was when the process started.
When questioned whether this was fair for the sports that spent time and money on a campaign to get into the Olympics, Franco Carraro, the Olympic Sport Program Director said “all the sports which were examined knew that there were eight sports competing for one place, the process was well known by everyone. Everyone knew that the sport which could not be recognized as core in February will compete against the others.”
After the loss, Squash released the following statement:
“Today’s decision is heart-breaking for the millions of Squash players around the world, particularly given the 10 year journey we have been on to join the Olympic Games Sports Programme. As the only new Olympic sport on today’s shortlist, we believed Squash offered something for the future and I still hope that our inclusion may still be possible.