Special Report: In-Depth Analysis of IOC’s Wrestling Demotion

By iSportconnect | February 12, 2013

By Keir Radnedge

Wrestling’s prospective expulsion from the Olympic Games may be ascribed to defeat in a fight for which it was a political lightweight.

The decision by the 15-strong executive board of the International Olympic Committee was a surprise to Games-watchers hovering around the Lausanne Palace Hotel but nothing like the shock felt by the world governing body FILA.

A statement from FILA’s headquarters described it having been “greatly astonished” by the “aberration” of the decision. Wrestling now joins seven other sports in chasing the one vacant slot available in the 2020 Games programme.

Asked where wrestling had been a{jcomments off}djudged to have come up short Mark Adams, the IOC’s communications director, said: “This is not what’s wrong with wrestling, it’s what’s right about the other 25 core sports. This process is about looking to renew the Olympic Games and the executive board made their decision based on their experience.

“They have a collective intelligence there with representatives from many sports, national Olympic committees and international federations and they came to that decision.”

Modern pentathlon and taekwondo had been considered the sports most at risk.

Now wrestling has to build a high-powered short-term lobbying campaign ahead of a do-or-die presentation to the same executive board in St Petersburg in late May.

A statement on the Vevey-based governing body’s website read: “FILA was greatly astonished by today’s recommendation of the IOC executive board not to maintain wrestling among the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Games.

“FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC executive board and IOC members of the aberration of such [a] decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games.”

Wrestling has featured in the Olympics since the original modern Games in Paris.

Conversely, being considered at risk had fired modern pentathlon to campaign hard to maintain the event’s status which it has held at the Games since Stockholm in 1912.

Lobbying was led by Klaus Schormann, president of governing body UIPM, but probably the ultimately decisive factor was the presence on the executive board of Juan Antonio Samaranch Junior. He was, he said later, “very, very happy.”

Jon Archer, Britain’s modern pentathlon chief executive, was equally relieved.

He said: “This absolutely secures the future of sport, not just at an Olympic level but also in giving us the opportunity to develop and get more people involved.

“Olympic inclusion is absolutely essential to our sport. It is at the centre of everything we do. We can relax now and work to continually modernise the sport and raise awareness.”

Samaranch cannot relax, though. He must now press the case for Madrid to win the three-way fight with Istanbul and Tokyo to win host rights to those 2020 Olympic Games.

Either way he knows, at least, that modern pentathlon will be there.

Wrestling featured 344 athletes competing in 11 medal events in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman at last year’s London Olympics. Women’s wrestling was added to the Olympics at Athens 2004.

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