A bizarre sequence of events has secured an ancient and original sport a place at the 2020 Olympics, but not without exposing the byzantine workings of the International Olympic Committee.

In February, the IOC executive board cut wrestling from future Olympics, despite the fact that the sport dates back to the original games held in ancient Greece and has been a part of all but one modern Olympics. The point of the exercise may have been to make way for newer sports such as squash.

Seven months later, after some revamping on the part of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), wrestling got its way onto a ballot of new sports to be added to the games and won, handily.

“I want to offer my sincere gratitude to each member of the International Olympic Committee that voted to save Olympic wrestling today,” FILA’s new president, Nenad Lalovic, said Sunday. Lalovic took over after the IOC axed wrestling. According to The Associated Press, he and his cohort reworked FILA’s organizational structure, added weight classes for women and instituted rule changes to make the sport more aggressive and entertaining.

Canadian IOC member Dick Pound is quoted by the AP saying, “The result is we are back where we started and they’ve spent a lot of time and energy, emotional or otherwise in a process that was pretty well doomed.”

Certainly the IOC is not without its faults. Sportswriter Dave Zirin has been critical, accusing the committee of enriching itself and corporations at the expense of host nations. Here’s something Zirin wrote about the upcoming Winter Games in Russia:

The IOC couldn’t “take a stand” with two crutches and hydraulic lift. It was a flawed body during the Cold War. Now it’s a corporate piranha masquerading as Nemo the Clown Fish, tearing countries to pieces under a miasma of soft-headed hooey about “bringing the world together through sports.” Asking the IOC to be an ally in the fight against oppression is like asking a scorpion not to sting. The mere fact that the Winter Games are in Putin’s Sochi – where the disappearance of 30 billion dollars in Olympic construction costs has elicited barely a pip from the IOC – only shows who they are and where they stand.

If you’re baseball or soccer or the NFL, then you don’t need the Olympics (unless, of course, you’re concerned about letting women compete). But if you’re wrestling, then IOC President Jacques Rogge is Vito Corleone and you had better kiss his ring. If the comments of the supplicant FILA are any indication, that seems to be what happened here.


“We are aware of our mistakes and they will not happen again,” FILA President Nenad Lalovic said. “This crisis gave us the strength to change and we finally found out that we can change. This was the most valuable experience of all of this journey.”

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