Wrestling Regains Spot in Olympic Games


Athletes and members of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) celebrate after the International Olympic Committee announced that wrestling won the bid to fill the final sports slot left vacant for the 2020 Olympic Games, during the IOC’s 125th Session, in Buenos Aires, September 8, 2013.

September 10, 2013, Washington, D.C. – Wrestling has regained its spot in the Olympic Games, after being dropped from the core list of sports by the International Olympics Committee in February. The sport beat squash and a combined bid by baseball and softball for the last remaining spot in the 2020 and 2024 Summer Games.

Wrestling, which has been on the program of every modern Olympic games except for 1900, received 49 votes to win in the first round of secret balloting by the IOC. Baseball and softball received 24 votes, and squash received 22.

The decision follows a six month campaign by the international governing body of wrestling, FILA (International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles), to reshape the sport to save its Olympic status. Since February, FILA has simplified wrestling’s  rules to make it easier to understand, added weight classes for women, and even explored ways to make its presentation of wrestling more enticing, such as changing mat colors and restyling the traditional singlet.

“I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now,” FILA President Nenad Lalovic said in thanking IOC voters. “We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic movement that we can be.”

Outside of FILA, wrestling leaders and enthusiasts around the world have also raised awareness of the sport’s cultural and historical significance. In May, PAAIA was proud to help Beat-the-Streets, a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, sponsor a wrestling event between the American, Iranian, and Russian teams in Vanderbilt Hall in New York City. This was the first time that Iranian wrestlers had visited the U.S. in ten years.

Concerned by the proliferation of Olympic sports and the increasing cost of production, the IOC originally voted in 2002 to cap the number of sports at 28, designating 25 as “core sports” and reserving three spots for sports to be added on a provisional basis.

Lalovic noted that Sunday’s victory does not mean wrestling’s work is done, and pointed out that the sport must now redirect its energy to gain core sport status. “Our rightful place in the Olympic family is being a core sport,” he said.

Iran left the 2012 Olympic Games in London with a total of 12 medals, half of which came from wrestling. The U.S. left with a total of 104 medals, four of which came from wrestling.

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