Wrestling has fought its way back on to the 2020 Olympic Summer Games program, just months after being removed from the list of core sports that were granted automatic acceptance into the event. The International Olympic Committee put wrestling back on the program, choosing the sport over baseball/softball and squash at its meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Baseball/softball was seeking to get back on the program after its elimination in 2008, and squash was seeking its first entry at the Olympics. But for wrestling, which has been on the Olympic program every year except 1900, the reinstatement came after months of reforms that included the ouster of Raphael Martinetti as president of FILA, the international governing body.
In February, the IOC Executive Board voted to remove wrestling as one of the 25 “core” Olympic sports but allowed it to compete with several other sports vying for a final spot on the program. In response, wrestling’s international leaders made significant changes to the structure of the competition, including a redistribution of weight classes to add more opportunities for women, as well as governance changes that allow three seats on the FILA board for women at all times, as well as at least one female vice-president at all times.
The structure of international wrestling competitions was changed with the goal of making wrestling more appealing to spectators. Those rule changes included moving from three two-minute periods to two three-minute periods; cumulative scoring for each match; and a new scoring for “spectacular” throws, which are awarded three or five points.
The list of wrestling supporters who made the final pitch to the IOC included Jim Scherr, the former head of the U.S. Olympic Committee and former executive director of USA Wrestling. Scherr wrestled at the 1988 Olympic Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.
FILA also waged a significant social media blitz aimed at drawing attention to the sport. Since February, the FILA Facebook page, which initially had 3,000 likes, has grown by nearly 100,000, and the FILA Twitter account grew by nearly 40,000 followers.
The announcement of the last sport on the schedule came a day after the IOC awarded the 2020 Olympic Summer Games to Tokyo, Japan. On Tuesday, the IOC will make its final significant vote when it selects a new president to succeed the departing Jacques Rogge.