LAUSANNE, Switzerland — IOC leaders dropped wrestling from the Olympic program Tuesday, a surprise decision that removes one of the oldest Olympic sports from the 2020 Games.
The IOC executive board decided to retain modern pentathlon — the event considered most at risk — and remove wrestling instead from its list of 25 “core sports.”
The IOC board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the International Olympic Committee to add a new sport later this year.
Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.
“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”
Adams said the decision was made by secret ballot over several rounds. IOC president Jacques Rogge did not vote.
Wrestling was voted out from a final group that also included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey, sources said.
The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission that analyzed 39 criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.
Wrestling featured 344 athletes competing in 11 medal events in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman at last year’s London Olympics. Women’s wrestling was added in 2004.
Wrestling will now join seven other sports in applying for inclusion in 2020. The others are a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu (martial arts). They will be vying for a single opening.