Wrestling is being reinstated as an Olympic sport.
In a surprise and controversial move in February, the International Olympic Committee decided to eliminate the sport, one of the event’s oldest categories, from the global competition. Wrestling has been a part of the Games since the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. At the time, an executive board of the IOC made the decision to remove wrestling from a list of 25 “core sports” then included in the Olympic program. Dropping the wrestling category would have allowed for the addition of a new sport. The decision also sparked worldwide protests.
In the intervening months, Olympic officials had second thoughts after wrestling proponents waged an intense lobbying campaign and a modernization effort. Today, wrestling is back on for the 2020 Games in Tokyo after winning a secret ballot vote over also-rans softball/baseball and squash.
Each of the three sports made a 20-minute presentation to the IOC before the secret ballot took place. Wrestling garnered 49 votes, while softball/baseball receveived 24 and squash to 22.
Nenad Lalovic, the president of the internatational wrestling governing body, had this to say about his sport being reinstated for the Olympics. “With this vote, you have shown that the steps we have taken to improve our sport have made a difference. I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic movement that we can be… Today is the most important day in the 2,000-year history of our sport. We feel the weight of that history. Remaining on the Olympic program is crucial to wrestling’s survival.”
Wrestling made various administrative changes which included an enhanced role for female athletes and rules changes to streamline the scoring and increase action. With the reinstatment of wrestling, no new sport will be added to the 2020 Games, however.