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KEEP WRESTLING IN THE OLYMPICS WRESTLING WINS! IOC votes to keep sport in Games through 2024 By Gary Abbott

For wrestlers worldwide, it all came down to one day, Sunday, September 8.

This was the day that the International Olympic Committee General Assembly was meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The decision at hand was which sport would be selected as an “additional sport” for the program at the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. Wrestling, the oldest sport known to mankind, which was included in both the ancient and the modern Olympic Games, was one of the sports under consideration, along with squash and the combined baseball-softball bid.

Ever since February 12, when the IOC Executive Board rec- ommended that wrestling be removed as a core sport of the Olympics after the 2016 Games, there has been a worldwide Keep Olympic Wrestling movement. USA Wrestling and its Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling had taken a leadership role in this effort, which was headed by FILA, the international wrestling federa- tion. A dynamic new president had been put in place at FILA, Nenad Lalovic of Serbia, and a number of important changes had been made within international wrestling including new rules, better governance and more opportunity for women. The first major step for wrestling’s return to the Olympic pro- gram came on May 29, when the IOC Executive Board voted wrestling on a short list of three candidate sports during its meeting during Sport Accord in St. Petersburg, Russia. Eight sports were considered, and were narrowed down to the three finalist candidates. That is when wrestling, squash and base- ball/softball had made the cut, placed in a final competition for the one remaining spot on the Olympic program. The first order of business on September 8 was to consider the February 12 recommendation of the Executive Board which removed wrestling from the core sport program. During the dis- cussion about this, IOC member Dick Pound of Canada recom- mended that the matter be sent back to the Executive Committee for reconsideration, stating it seemed that wrestling would be restored to the Olympic program and there would be no change to the Olympic program. IOC president Jacques Rogge said that the decision must be made that day, defending the process and noting that the IOC had unanimously approved it.

The vote was held, with a large majority approving the Executive Committee recommendation as expected, and wrestling was officially removed from the core program of the Olympics after the 2016 Rio Games. Next up were the presentations for the three candidate sports for the final additional spot on the program. First, baseball and softball made its presentation to the IOC, followed by squash. Then it was time for wrestling, which had 20 minutes to make its case, which was followed by questions from IOC members Wrestling’s all-star team of presenters was ready, the same five leaders who pleaded wrestling’s case at the St. Petersburg

FILA President Nenad Lalovic did a masterful job in keep- ing wrestling in the Olympics. Tony Rotundo photo.

meetings in May. First to speak was FILA President Nenad Lalovic.

“Thank you for this opportunity to save our sport of wrestling. It is an understatement to say that today is the most important day in the 3,000-year history of our sport. Believe me, we feel the weight of that history, because remaining on the Olympic program is crucial to wrestling’s survival. Since February of this year, millions of wrestlers and fans have come together like never before to save our sport,” said Lalovic. Jim Scherr of the USA, past CEO of both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Wrestling, and now a FILA Bureau mem- ber, explained in more detail wrestling’s case to remain an Olympic sport.

“I have been involved in wrestling for most of my life and I have never seen our sport so invigorated, so focused and so united as we have been this past year. You have heard a lot today about what is and what is not a new sport for the Olympic Games. If there is one thing that you remember from this pres- entation is that wrestling is new in virtually every way. The EB’s decision was a wakeup call for FILA. We have tried to turn it into a huge opportunity for the sport and, we believe, for the Olympic movement,” said Scherr. Lise LeGrand of France, a past Olympic medalist and now

Continued on page 6 USA Wrestler 5

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