Wrestling reinstated to Olympic program for 2020 Games in Tokyo

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(CNN) — Wrestling has been reinstated to the program for the 2020 Games in Tokyo after a vote Sunday by members of the International Olympic Committee in Buenos Aires.

Wrestling won on the first round of voting by gaining 49 of the 95 votes cast.

It was competing with the joint bid of baseball/softball and squash to win the final spot on the roster of sports for 2020, as the Summer Games returns to Asia after the Beijing Games of 2008.

Baseball/softball claimed 24 votes and squash received 22.

The result means wrestling, a sport which dates back to the ancient Olympics over 3,000 years ago, is assured of taking its place in both Tokyo in 2020 and the 2024 Summer Olympics.

In February, wrestling, which has appeared in all the modern Games dating back to Athens in 1896, was cut from the 2020 program after the IOC executive board made an assessment of the performance of all 26 sports in the 2012 London Olympics.

But in May, with its world governing body FILA (International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles), under the new leadership of Serbian Nenad Lalovic, wrestling was given the chance to compete with baseball/softball and squash to extend its inclusion past the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Lalovic told IOC members as he made his presentation Sunday: “Today is the most important day in the 3,000-year history of our sport.”

Later, he reflected on the reasons why wresting had preserved its place on the program when all had appeared lost.

“This crisis gave us the strength to change and we finally found we can change,” he told reporters.

“Wrestling has become a modernized sport ready to compete with other sports.

“We have updated it to make it more spectacular and more watchable and the rules understandable,” Lalovic added.

Questioned about allegations of corruption, which have also dogged wrestling, Lalovic pointed to changes in FILA’s governance structure.

“There is no real evidence of it, but there is always suspicions, the only way to tackle this is by a modern and democratic constitution.”

The baseball/softball bid had in its presentation team Antonio Castro, the son of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but failed to win back its status after being voted off the Games program starting with the 2012 Games in London.

Squash has long fought for Olympic status and Narayana Ramachandaran, president of its world federation, described the decision as “heartbreaking” after a 10-year long campaign.

Earlier Sunday, the IOC voted to retain the 25 sports already on its program.

Golf and Rugby Sevens had already been added to the 2016 and 2020 Games after an earlier vote in 2009.

Wrestling’s reinstatement will take the total number of sports being contested to 28 in 2020.

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