BUENOS AIRES: Wrestling will be at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics after all as they completed a remarkable seven-month journey in Buenos Aires yesterday by being voted back onto the Olympic sports roster by International Olympic Committee (IOC) members.
Wrestling, which is one of the rare sports to have transcended the ancient and modern Olympics, is very popular in Japan so Tokyo’s victory on Saturday to host the Games bolstered their standing as favourites to win.
In the event it took just one round as wrestling received 49 of the 95 votes cast.
The joint bid of baseball/softball was second with 24 votes and squash received 22.
The result sees wrestling assured of appearing at both the 2020 edition and the 2024 Summer Olympics.
It marks a huge turnaround in fortunes for wrestling which was dropped from the Olympic programme in February this year by the 15-person IOC Executive Board.
It sparked uproar, probably surprising several of the board members, with even bitter political enemies such as Iran and the United States seeing their wrestlers join forces to plead for it to be restored.
The same board then gave it a second chance when they put it on the three-sport shortlist -- after presentations by eight sports at the end of May -- to be considered by the entire IOC membership in Buenos Aires.
“It would be an understatement to say that today is the most important day in the 3,000 years of our existence,” said wrestling federation president Nenad Lalovic at the presentation.
“We have made mistakes and we have learnt from them.”
Despite some questions regarding alleged corruption within the sport, Lalovic was left beaming after the announcement by IOC President Jacques Rogge.
“With this vote, you have shown that the steps we have taken to improve our sport have made a difference,” said Lalovic, who was not a wrestler himself but whose son represented Serbia at international level.
“I assure each of you that our modernisation will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic Movement that we can be.”
For baseball/softball -- who had among others Antonio Castro the son of the long-time Cuban leader Fidel in their presentation team -- it represents another blow after being voted off the Games programme starting with the 2012 London edition.
For squash too there was huge disappointment that a journey which started 10 years ago -- seeing them top the vote in 2005 but fail to get the required two-thirds majority and then fail again in 2009 -- still has some distance to go before they perhaps achieve their ultimate goal. AFP