Wrestling, baseball-softball, squash make IOC list
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Three months after being dropped from the 2020 Olympics, wrestling won a reprieve Wednesday and made the IOC short list for inclusion in the games.
Also making the cut were squash and a combined baseball-softball bid.
Eight sports were vying for a single opening in the lineup. Eliminated from contention were five sports — karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu.
The IOC executive board will submit wrestling, squash and baseball-softball to the full IOC assembly for a final decision on Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
"It's a good mix of team sports and individual," IOC vice president Thomas Bach said.
The decision came after the eight sports federations made closed-door presentations to the IOC executive board.
The board voted by secret ballot over several rounds, with wrestling winning on the first round with eight of the 14 votes.
Baseball-softball beat karate 9-5 in a head-to-vote to win its spot on the list. Squash got through in the final round, getting eight votes to defeat wushu with four and sport climbing with two.
Men's baseball and women's softball, which have been off the program since the 2008 Beijing Games, merged into a single federation to improve their chances of getting back in.
"We are humbled and honored," said Riccardo Fraccari, co-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation. "The decision motivates us to work even harder on behalf of the athletes."
Squash is bidding for an Olympic spot for a third time.
Wrestling, with a tradition dating to the ancient Olympics, was surprisingly cut from the list of core sports by the IOC board in February. The decision caused an international outcry and prompted the United States, Russia, Iran and other countries to join forces in a bid to bring the sport back.
The addition of wrestling to the mix has not gone over well with all the sports. If wrestling is reinstated in September, that will defeat the IOC's original goal of bringing in a new sport in 2020.
Wrestling, which has freestyle and Greco-Roman events, has gone through a major upheaval since February's rejection by the IOC. Raphael Martinetti resigned as FILA president and was replaced by Nenad Lalovic, women and athletes were brought into decision-making roles, and changes were enacted to make the sport more compelling.
Among the changes, matches will consist of two three-minute sessions instead of three two-minute periods, and scoring will be cumulative instead of the previous best-of-three system.
The IOC decision was watched closely by the three cities bidding to host the 2020 Games — Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. Bid leaders from the three candidates are in St. Petersburg to make presentations on Thursday at the SportAccord Convention. Wrestling is particularly popular in Turkey and Japan.