Wrestling completed an unprecedented Olympic comeback on Sunday,reclaiming its spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after beating bids from rivals squash and baseball/softball in an International Olympic Committee vote.
Wrestling,which featured in the ancient Olympics and in every modern Games apart from 1900,had been surprisingly taken off the Games in February as the IOC looked to refresh its sports programme.
“I want to offer my sincere gratitude to each member of the International Olympic Committee that voted to save Olympic wrestling today,” a delighted international wrestling federation (FILA) president Nenad Lalovic told reporters seconds after the vote.
He had taken over in February after their Olympic exit and has been credited with bringing the sport back into contention after wrestling made a shortlist of candidate sports in May.
“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.”,he said.
Sunday’s result marks a sensational turnaround for the sport which overhauled its rules,administration,gender equity and operations following its shock exclusion.
Wrestling,which had received glowing support from IOC members who were stunned by the Executive Board decision in February,after its changes,won an outright majority of votes in the first round.
The sport got 49 of 95 votes,with baseball/softball earning 24 and squash landing 22 votes from the IOC members.
The result was crushing news for both of the others sports that have been trying to win a spot in the Games for as much as a decade.
Baseball and softball,Olympic sports until the 2008 Beijing Games,hoped for a return to the Olympic fold while squash,the only one not to have featured in the Olympics was making its third consecutive bid after 2005 and 2009.