Olympic wrestling’s seven-month nightmare has ended.
The International Olympic Committee, which voted in February to eliminate freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling as a core sport from the Olympics after the 2016 Games, pretty much reversed course Sunday, deciding to put wrestling back in as a provisional sport for the 2020 and 2024 Olympics at their meeting in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
In the first round of balloting, wrestling garnered 49 votes out of the 95 voters, with the combined baseball-softball bid getting 24 votes, and squash, 22 votes. Because wrestling received the majority of votes outright, it won on the first ballot.
“We are thrilled with the IOC decision today,” said Bill Scherr, chairman of the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling, and a former Olympian and wrestler at the University of Nebraska, who was a member of the wrestling presentation team in Buenos Aires. “Wrestling has been a significant part of the ancient and modern Olympics and we are pleased to be on the program for 2020 and 2024. The IOC has been fair and encouraging to us and we believe that there will be opportunities for us to again be one of the core sports and permanently on the program in the future. The Olympics has much to offer wrestling and wrestling adds greatly to the Olympic program. It is important to the millions of young wrestlers around the world—boys and girls--that we work to provide an opportunity for them to dream Olympic dreams, just as many of us did. And so we will continue the fight to become a core sport of the Olympic Games.”
“Now the work really starts for wrestling,” said Rich Bender, Executive Director of USA Wrestling, the national governing body for the sport in the United States. “We need to capitalize on the opportunity which we have received and continue to move the sport forward. Momentum is on our side. We must continue to be passionate and aggressive in promoting and improving wrestling in the United States and around the world. We also want to thank everybody from the U.S. wrestling community who has stepped up to support the Keep Olympic Wrestling movement.”
Since the Feb. 12 decision by the IOC Executive Committee to take wrestling out of the Olympics after 2016, it’s been a long nightmare for the international wrestling community, wondering if the sport that had been a fixture of the ancient Olympics – and one of the original sports of the modern Olympics since 1896 – would be part of the Olympic programme for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and beyond.
FILA – the international governing body for wrestling – as well as wrestlers, coaches and fans stepped up to make a case for the sport… while making changes to answer concerns expressed by the IOC.
Days after the IOC decision to axe wrestling, FILA gave the boot to its president, Raphael Martinetti… and replaced him with Nenad Lelovic of Serbia.
In mid-May, FILA unveiled new, more fan-friendly rules. Later that month, wrestling was one of three sports to make it through an initial round of voting to the decision made by the entire IOC membership at the Buenos Aires meeting Sunday.
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