Wrestling is to be dropped from the
programme of the 2020 Games, the International Olympic Committee
executive board recommended Tuesday.
The IOC leaders' move to ditch the sport, which was already part of the ancient Olympics, was seen a surprise as modern pentathlon had appeared most vulnerable as the IOC reviewed the 26 current core summer sports.
The final decision, seen as a formality, will be made by the IOC Session in September in Buenos Aires where wrestling can also seek to be included again, along with seven other sports.
"The EB recommended that wrestling not be included on the list of core sports," the IOC said in a statement.
"Wrestling will now join the seven shortlisted sports - baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu - vying for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic programme as an additional sport."
IOC vice-president Thomas Bach of Germany said that "an Olympic sport must combine tradition and progress," as Olympians suggested that lack of development of the sport, a not very credible anti-doping programme and a big financial dependency on IOC payments were among the reasons why wrestling was dropped.
The world governing wrestling body FILA said in a statement it was "astonished" by the news from the IOC headquarters in Switzerland and said it would do everything to get back into the Games.
"FILA will take all necessary measures to convince the IOC Executive Board and IOC members of the aberration of such decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games," FILA said.
"FILA has always complied with the IOC regulations and is represented in 180 countries, with wrestling being the national sport in a fair amount of them and the only possibility for athletes to represent their country at the Olympic Games, thus contributing to their universality."
Wrestling was part of the Olympics in ancient Greece and made its full modern Olympics debut in 1904 after a Greco-Roman open event was held in 1896. Women's wrestling was added in 2004.
At London 2012, 344 wrestlers competed in 18 medal events (11 freestyle, seven Greco-Roman). Russia was the most successful nation with four golds, two silvers and five bronze, from 29 nations that won medals.
"Wrestling is chess on the floor. It is a traditional sport which was there (at the Olympics) from the start," said the 2000 Olympic champion and two-times world champion Alexander Leipold of Germany.
Former German national team member Benedict Rehbein said the IOC "sold tradition and the Olympic spirit" when it made its recommendation.
Wrestling will make its possibly last appearance 2016 in Rio before following in the footsteps of baseball and softball, which were dropped after Beijing 2008.
Rugby sevens and golf will be added for Rio de Janeiro 2016.
The additional sport elected in September brings the number of summer sports back to 28. The EB will make recommendation after meetings in May in which all bidders will make a presentation.
The IOC has made efforts to reach out to a younger audience in recent years by becoming more flexible with the Olympic programme.
"In an effort to ensure the Olympic Games remain relevant to sports fans of all generations, the Olympic programme commission systematically reviews every sport following each edition of the Games," the IOC said.
The programme commission takes 39 factors, ranging from global popularity, appeal to the younger generation and television ratings to anti-doping measures, into account.
Canoeing and field hockey were also in danger of being ditched Tuesday, but modern pentathlon was seen as the weakest link.
That although it was created by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics; bringing together the skills of a soldier - riding, fencing, swimming, shooting and running - and on the Olympic programme since 1912.
But the governing body UIPM has taken great strides to make the event formerly held over five days more appealing. The London 2012 edition was held over one day at various locations and there are now plans to host all events in one arena.
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