The International Olympic Committee dropped wrestling as an Olympic sport on Tuesday, Feb. 11. With this decision, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling will no longer appear in the summer Olympics, beginning in 2020.
The IOC voted to cut one of the 26 Olympics sports so that one could be added later on. The decision came as a shock to many, as the modern pentathlon was considered most-likely to be dropped. A sport involving fencing, horse riding. swimming, running and shooting, the pentathlon has received little popularity worldwide. However, the IOC based their decision on a diverse array of factors, including 39 criteria that ranged from TV ratings and ticket sales to anti-doping policy, global participation and popularity.
There were other factors involved in the final decision as well.
Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, the son of the former president of the IOC and the current representative of Spain on the committee, may have been influential in steering the committee away from dropping the pentathlon. His conflict of interest is evident as Salisachs is the vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union, the universal governing body of the pentathlon.
The final three sports voted on were field hockey, wrestling and the pentathlon. Fourteen members voting over four rounds with secret ballots made the final decision. IOC president Jacques Rogge did not vote.
With the unpopular decision to drop a sport that dates back to the ancient Olympics and has been a part of the modern Olympics since 1896, the IOC faces backlash from numerous wrestling organizations and Olympic committees including the United States and Russia. Rogge has agreed to meet with the head of wrestling’s governing body, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, which is also known as FILA, to see if there is any way to keep wrestling in the Olympics. FILA has time to appeal to overturn the decision before it is ratified by the full IOC in September, which is also when the IOC general assembly will decide on the replacing sport.
There are a number of sports that have the potential to replace wrestling, such as karate, roller sports, baseball and softball in a joint bid, wushu, squash and sport climbing. Baseball and softball are unlikely to be re-voted in as they were the last sports to be voted out in 2005. However, there is still hope for wrestling fans everywhere, if FILA can act in time to save Olympic wrestling.
Mary Jane Dumankaya is sports editor. Email her at [email protected]