Buenos Aires, Argentina – Wrestling is back in the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee voted in favour of it re-inclusion with 49 of a possible 95 votes while opponents Baseball/Softball received 24 votes and Squash earned 22. The decision was made at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires.
On Sunday morning, by a vote of 77 to 16, members of the IOC voted to ratify the 25 proposed core sports for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic programme. That meant they approved the sports being competed at Rio 2016, minus wrestling – the sport that was left in limbo earlier in the year when the IOC Executive Board decided to exclude it.
FILA President Nenad Lalovic said “today is the most important day of the 3,000 year history of our sport.”
But during their presentation, the bid team did not look into the past and instead focused on the future.
American Wrestler Jim Scherr said “wrestling is new in virtually every way.”
After being excluded from the core sports seven months ago, the sports world reacted with outrage. Since then, wrestling has changed dramatically with rule changes, style changes, branding changes, a new FILA constitution and the implementation of an aggressive social media campaign.
“We didn’t just create a new FILA. We created a new Wrestling,” Canadian wrestler Carol Huynh said.
Lalovic added “We have listened to you, to you all – we have learned and listened.”
Wrestling was an original sport in both the ancient and modern Olympics and has been competed at every Games since.
Earlier in the day the IOC Executive Board officially agreed to allow the softball and baseball merge into a single federation by a vote of hands.
The two sports were dropped from the program after the 2008 Games in Beijing
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) emphasized gender equality, growth, revenue potential and international appeal in their presentation.
Riccardo Fraccari, WBSC co-president, claimed the Olympic gold would be the pinnacle prize for baseball players at all level – but there was no player representation from Major League Baseball (MLB). When on the program, baseball was often criticized because the best players, especially those from MLB, did not compete. Currently there are concerns about rampant doping in the league that was recently emphasized when high-profile player Alex Rodriguez was implicated along with others.
Softball is a sport that is expanding rapidly has become popular internationally, especially among young girls. WBSC co-president Don Porter was choking back tears when he described his lifetime passion for the sport and how he yearns to help young girls around the world fight for their dreams.
Tokyo, where baseball is extremely popular, would have been a good location for the sport’s reintegration – but in other cities the construction of a baseball venue is often necessary and would leave a difficult legacy.
Squash took aim at the Olympics for the third time, and is the only sport among the three finalists that has never been on the Olympic program – and Squash Federation Chief N Ramachandran is positioning it a sport of the future.
A positive feature of the sport is its lightweight footprint and ease of implementation at an Olympic Games. Courts are portable “glass boxes” that can be placed temporarily in iconic locations, they cost about USD $250,000 and are designed to show well to both live and television audience. An international tournament can be organized with only 32 players.
Squash champions come from many nations, provide opportunities to both genders, and enjoy beneficial physical fitness.
More reaction to come as this story develops.