Wrestling gets its place back in the Olympics

Wrestling gets its place back in the Olympics

BUENOS AIRES - Wrestling fought its way back onto the Olympic programme for the 2020 Games, just six months after it was thrown out.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) members gave the sport a ringing endorsement of the changes it has made, rewarding it with 49 of the 95 votes cast for an absolute majority win in the first round of voting at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires.

Baseball/softball, which last featured at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, could only garner 24 votes. Squash, bidding to make its Olympic debut, was last with 22 votes.

International wrestling federation (Fila) president Nenad Lalovic told reporters: "With this vote, you have shown that the steps we have taken to improve our sport have made a difference.

"We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic Movement that we can be."

Wrestling had been accused of being stagnant and reluctant to modernise itself. Its lack of evolution ultimately led to it being dropped by the IOC's executive board in February.

But under the leadership of Lalovic, who took over the reins in February, the sport has reinvented itself, boasting changes to make it more television and spectator-friendly, rewarding aggressive rather than defensive wrestling strategy.

It also moved for more diversity - at least one of the four Fila vice-presidents must now be a woman, while two more women's events were added.

Lalovic said: "Our fight doesn't stop here. We have to improve our sport to be a core sport," adding that "wrestling has changed, has become a modernised sport and ready to compete with others".

The IOC also voted to retain 25 core sports for the 2020 Games. The 25, as proposed by the executive board in February, are: aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football, gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, taekwondo, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, volleyball and weightlifting.

Golf and rugby sevens, which were added in 2009 to the Olympic programme, will be contested at the 2016 and 2020 Games, bringing the total to 28.

marclim@sph.com.sg


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