Wrestling officials and athletes representing their sport at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires happily greeted today’s inclusion of wrestling as an additional sport on the Olympic programme for the Summer Olympic Games in 2020 and 2024 by the full IOC membership. The other two sports in the race for one open slot were baseball/softball and squash.
Addressing the IOC members, the President of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), Nenad Lalovic, said: “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 modernisation will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic Movement that we can be.”
Wrestling is one of the core sports on the Olympic Programme until Rio 2016, but did not feature in the IOC Executive Board’s proposal for the 25 core sports for the 2020 Olympic Programme, which was agreed upon by the Session before the decision on the additional sport.
In the last few months, wrestling has undergone major changes, including new rules and a better sports presentation to attract more spectators and a younger audience. In addition, FILA has recently improved its governance by integrating more athletes and women into decision-making positions and by increasing the numbers of its commissions. Commenting on all the changes FILA has implemented in the last few months, Lalovic said: “We did all we could. We changed our sport, our federation, and we prepared a good presentation. Wrestling is not a new sport, but the wrestling we are presenting now is new wrestling.”
Daniel Igali, an Olympic gold medallist for Canada at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and part of FILA’s delegation presenting to the IOC Session, said: “Wrestling transformed me and is now transforming itself.” Arguing that young people would have less interest in wrestling should the sport no longer be included in the Olympic Games, Igali said: “I would not have had the same zealous passion for wrestling it if wasn’t for the Olympics. We will build a better sport for young kids.”