Wrestling gets cruel Olympic jolt

IOCs all-powerful executive board recommends removal of sport from the 2020 Games
Last Updated 12 February 2013, 19:27 IST

Wrestling will not feature in the 2020 Olympic Games after the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board made a surprise recommendation to drop the sport on Tuesday.

Contested in the first modern Olympics in 1896 and also part of the ancient Games in Olympia, wrestling will now join seven other candidate sports battling for one spot in a revamped programme.

It is unlikely, however, that it will get a reprieve when the IOC session in Buenos Aires votes on the recommendation in September.

"This is not the end of the process, this is purely a recommendation," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters after the executive board vote. "It is the session which is sovereign.

"It was a decision to look at the core sports, what works best for the Olympic games. This was the best programme for the 2020 Olympics. This is not about what's wrong with wrestling but what is good for the Games."

The Executive Board vote comes as a major surprise after other sports, including modern pentathlon and taekwondo, were seen at risk of losing out their place due to their lower global appeal.Board members were given a report on each of the Olympic sports which provided details on 39 criteria such as popularity, finances, tickets sold and governance, before a secret vote. "There were different rounds of voting necessary to come to this conclusion," said IOC Vice-President Thomas Bach. "It is an extremely difficult decision to take."

"The common understanding is the purpose of this was to modernise, to look into the future of the Olympics," added Bach, a potential IOC presidential candidate later this year.

While pentathlon and taekwondo have the support of senior IOC members, wrestling is not strongly represented in the IOC's decision-making body. IOC sources said that in the secret ballot there were four sports battling to avoid the cut: field hockey, modern pentathlon, taekwondo and wrestling. "I am very surprised by the result," board member and president of the International ice hockey federation Rene Fasel told Reuters.

"Personally I do not know why but that is what the majority wanted."

The IOC said 25 of the 26 Olympic sports were elected as core sports for the 2020 Games besides rugby and golf, making their first appearance in 2016.

Wrestling joins baseball and softball, making a joint bid, martial arts karate and wushu, rollersports, wakeboarding, squash and sports climbing as candidates for the one empty spot. Baseball and softball were taken off the programme in 2005.

The IOC executive board will meet in St Petersburg in May to determine which of these will be put to the vote in September. Wrestling had 344 athletes in total at the London Olympics, competing in greco-roman and freestyle disciplines. Women's events were introduced at the Athens 2004 Olympics.

Russian wrestling federation chief Mikhail Mamiashvili was shocked by the decision but was confident his sport would remain in the Games. "I'm absolutely convinced this ancient sport will retain its status," Mamiashvili, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1988, told Reuters.

Olympic exclusion will be a major blow to the sport's popularity and financial stability as the Games are a global platform for the promotion of smaller, less established sports.
Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul are bidding to host the 2020 Olympics with a decision also to be taken in September.

IOC decision a big blow to India

-Wrestling fetched India their first-ever individual Olympic medal, at Helsinki in 1952
-KD Jadhav won the bronze with a spirited performance
-In recent times, the sport has been on the rise, with Sushil Kumar at the forefront
-Sushil won a bronze at Beijing 2008 and then claimed silver at London in 2012
-Yogeshwar Dutt won a bronze in London, making it 4 medals from the sport for India.
-Why was it dropped:
-IOC’s Sports Programme Commission reviews each sport after every Olympic Games
- It’s popularity, television ratings, ticket sales etc are considered while evaluating its presence in the Games
-Wrestling lost out to modern pentathlon and taekwondo on these counts
- The way forward:
-IOC executive board will meet in May to consider seven other sports to be included for 2020
-Wrestling also will be considered then, but chances look bleak at the moment
-The change will then have to be ratified by IOC’s General Assembly in September

(Published 12 February 2013, 11:17 IST)

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