Wrestling hopes of surviving boosted after IOC members given opportunity of voting on sports for 2020
Wednesday, 13 February 2013
February 13 - A decision to allow up to three sports to be voted on for inclusion on the Olympic programme for 2020 could help boost wrestling's chances of overturning the decision to remove it from the list of core events.
Jacques Rogge (pictured top), President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is set to bow to demands from the membership and allow them a choice of which sport they want in the Games in 2020.
The original plan had been for the IOC's ruling Executive Board to recommend only one sport for inclusion, effectively giving the 110 members a "take it or leave it" choice when they vote on it at the annual Session in Buenos Aires in September.
At the IOC Session in Copenhagen four years ago golf and rugby sevens had been the only two sports put forward by the Executive Board for the two places.
But, following protests at last year's Session in London, led by Malaysia's Prince Tunku Imran, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, Rogge has now conceded that a shortlist should be drawn up to be presented to the members in the Argentinian capital.
Seven sports - baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu - are currently bidding for inclusion on the programme.
They are all due to make presentations to the IOC Executive Board at its next meeting, which will take place at SportAccord in St Petersburg from May 29 to May 31.
They will now be joined by wrestling, controversially recommended yesterday by the 15-person IOC Executive to be removed from the programme of core sports after Rio 2016.
Following the meeting in Russia, the Executive Board will recommend three sports on which the membership can vote on in Buenos Aires.
Wrestling will be emboldened by the high level of support it has received following the decision to axe it.
Russia and the United States, not normally natural allies, are leading the protests.
"Given the history and tradition of wrestling, and its popularity and universality, we were surprised when the decision was announced," said Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee.
"It is important to remember that [this] action is a recommendation, and we hope that there will be a meaningful opportunity to discuss the important role that wrestling plays in the sports landscape both in the United States and around the world."
Alexander Zhukov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee, has also protested about the decision.
"I want to appeal to the International Olympic Committee on behalf of the Russian Olympic Committee with the request to keep wrestling in the Olympic programme," he said.
Russia had finished top of the wrestling medals table at London 2012 with 11 medals, including four gold.
"I think it's extraordinarily important, not only for Russian sport and the million wrestling enthusiasts in Russia, but more broadly for the world Olympic Movement," said Zhukov.
"We will, of course, be putting all our efforts into convincing the members of the International Olympic Committee not to exclude wrestling from the Olympic programme.
"For Russia, of course, this is especially unpleasant news, because we have hundreds of thousads, if not millions of guys attending wrestling classes who dream of becoming Olympic champions.
"It will be a very big injustice if they have that dream snatched away from them."
A facebook group - Save Olympic Wrestling - launched yesterday has already attracted more than 60,000 likes, while a petition started on the White House website has over 21,000 signatures.
Rogge revealed today he has been contacted by Raphaël Martinetti, the Swiss President of international wrestling federation FILA, and claimed he was encouraged by the sport's resolve to make changes and fight for its place.
"We agreed we would meet at the first opportunity to have discussions," he said.
"I should say FILA reacted well to this disheartening news for them.
"They vowed to adapt the sport and vowed to fight to be eventually included in the 2020 slot.
"The vote of yesterday is not an elimination of wrestling from the Olympic Games.
"Wrestling will participate in the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
To the athletes who train now, I say, 'Continue training for your participation in Rio.
"'Your Federation is working for the inclusion in the 2020 Games.'"
February 2013: Wrestling fighting for Olympic future after dropped from core sports