Wrestling is still in the running for returning as an Olympic sport, the International Olympic Committee Executive Board announced in St. Petersburg, Russia Wednesday.
Wrestling, along with squash and a combined baseball-softball bid, are the three sports on a shortlist for consideration for one open spot for the 2020 Olympics.
These three sports will be presented for a final vote by the entire IOC General Assembly in its meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on September 8.
A total of eight sports made their pitch to the IOC Executive Board in St. Petersburg. In addition to the three sports on the shortlist, others seeking a place on the Olympic roster include inline speed skating, karate, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.
FILA, the international wrestling federation, made its presentation to the IOC Executive Board today to make its case for inclusion in the Olympic Games. Making the presentation was an all-star group of wrestling leaders, including new FILA President Nenad Lalovic of Serbia and four past Olympic athletes, Jim Scherr of the United States, Carol Huynh of Canada, Daniel Igali of Nigeria and Canada and Lise Legrand of France.
Scherr, former University of Nebraska wrestler and Olympian who was a once the US Olympic Committee CEO, said of FILA’s presentation to the IOC, “We impressed the executive board. We were the first sport selected overwhelmingly by the executive board.”
According to ESPN, the IOC Executive Board voted by secret ballot over several rounds, with wrestling winning on the first round with eight of the 14 votes.
Baseball-softball beat karate 9-5 in a head-to-head vote to win its spot on the list. Squash got through in the final round, getting eight votes to defeat wushu with four and sport climbing with two.
In responding to the announcement that wrestling is still in the running for a return to the Olympics, FILA’s newly elected President Nenad Lalovic said, “While our place in the Olympic Games is still not guaranteed, this decision recognizes the great lengths to which we are going to reform our sport and address the IOC’s concerns. At FILA’s recent Extraordinary Congress we enacted a number of rule and governance changes and we hope that our continued efforts will ensure we are successful at the final vote in September. We recognize that there is still a long road ahead but we will continue to work to preserve our place in the Olympic Games.”
“The match is not finished,” added Lalovic. “We have a second match to fight. But be careful, we are good fighters.”
FILA has taken major steps to address IOC concerns. At an Extraordinary Congress on May 18, FILA approved Lalovic as president, and implemented rule changes to make freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling more fan friendly, including a new match format featuring two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods, with cumulative scoring rather than the previous two-out-of-three system.
Prior to Wednesday’s vote, wrestling, squash and karate were considered the frontrunners in the balloting. The inclusion of the combined baseball-softball bid on the IOC shortlist may be considered something of a surprise. In that in the past, Major League Baseball has said it would not reconfigure its schedule to allow professional baseball players to participate in the Summer Games, an issue that the IOC raised when it dropped the sport from the Olympics in 2005. However, according to USA Today, a letter from Major League Baseball was presented at Wednesday’s IOC meeting.
Want to know more? Read stories from wrestling websites TheMat.com,, InterMat, and the University of Iowa wrestling website. See what the mainstream media is saying: USA Today… Des Moines Register… Wall Street Journal… ESPN… and Canada’s National Post newspaper.
Get the reactions from gold medalists Tom Brands, Dan Gable and John Smith from this College Wrestling Examiner story.
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