WRESTLING has been given an unexpected chance to remain an Olympic sport, after being named on a three-strong shortlist with squash and baseball/softball for inclusion at the 2020 Games.
Five other sports were eliminated yesterday in a secret vote by the International Olympic Committee, including climbing, despite high-profile backing from British athletics double gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.
Karate, rollersports, wakeboarding and martial art wushu – better known in the West as kung fu – also failed to make the cut, with the winner to be decided in September.
Wrestling was provisionally dropped for the 2020 Olympics in February, but has since undergone a revamp in a bid to increase its popularity.
A three-round format has been cut to two in an attempt to win over younger fans, while long-standing rivals Iran, Russia and the United States have joined forces to lobby for the sport to be retained.
Golf and rugby sevens have been added to the core 25 disciplines for the next Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, with a further sport being introduced four years later.
International federations of each sport made 30-minute presentations before the ballot to the IOC, which reviews the entire programme after each Games.
The Olympic Programme Commission employs 39 criteria, including universality, good governance, popularity and youth appeal, to evaluate a sport’s worthiness for inclusion.
“The executive board received excellent presentations today from eight International Federations,” said IOC president Jacques Rogge.
“It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the board made a good decision in selecting baseball/softball, squash and wrestling to be put forward [to the final vote] in Buenos Aires.”
Holmes, who won 800m and 1500m gold at the Athens Games in 2004, had identified climbing as having a “wow factor”. Squash has missed out on two previous attempts for inclusion.