Wrestling has won back its place in the Olympic program after it defeated baseball/softball and squash for a spot in the 2020 Summer Games, which are scheduled to be held in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo.
On Sunday, wrestling received 49 votes to win in the first round of secret balloting by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A joint bid by baseball and softball got 24 votes and squash 22.
Sunday’s result marks a sensational turnaround for the sport, which featured in the ancient Olympics and has been part of every modern Games except for 1900 in Paris, following its shock exclusion earlier this year.
The IOC surprisingly took wrestling off the Olympic program in February as it looked to refresh its sports program. Wrestling overhauled its rules, administration, gender equity and operations following the move.
Russia and the United States sided with Iran in their efforts to reverse the IOC decision to exclude wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
“We’ll be standing arm-in-arm with Iran, and we’ll be standing with Russia as we will with lots of other countries,” US wrestling national team director Mitch Hull said on February 19.
He added, “Those [countries] really do make a difference because politically we’re not always on the same page, or politically with Russia, but in wrestling, there’s no doubt that we are all together in this effort and we consider Iran one of our strongest allies in the sport of wrestling.”
In recent years, softball and baseball have both failed separately in their bid to get their sport reinstated into the Olympic program so they merged in the hope of joining the program of the 2020 Games
Cuba has dominated Olympic baseball, winning three gold and two silver medals in the five times the sport has been played – in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 respectively.
The IOC voted to drop baseball and softball from the 2012 Games two days after it had selected London as the host city. There was an appeal, but the IOC voted to uphold the decision.