Wrestling's removal from Olympic program shocks Turkey

Wrestling's removal from Olympic program shocks Turkey

LAUSANNE, Switzerland
Wrestlings removal from Olympic program shocks Turkey

Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. AP photo

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) dropped wrestling from the Olympic program yesterday, a surprise decision that deprives Turkey from its stronghold in the Olympic Games.

The IOC executive board decided to retain modern pentathlon, the event considered most at risk and instead remove wrestling from its list of 25 “core sports” in a move that removes one of the oldest Olympic sports from the 2020 Games.

The IOC board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the International Olympic Committee to add a new sport to the program later this year. Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

“It’s a real shock. Wrestling was not on the radar,” an IOC source told Agence France-Presse. “It was a very close vote between wrestling and modern pentathlon, maybe one or two votes separating them. The trouble was while modern pentathlon and taekwondo did effective lobbying; wrestling thought they were safe and did none at all.”

The decision means Turkey will have to cope with the absence of wrestling, its most successful sport, in the 2020 Games.

Turkey has won 58 of its total 87 Olympic medals in wrestling. Turkish athletes have collected 28 gold, 16 silver and 14 bronze medals so far.

Turkey opposes the idea

Turkish Wrestling Federation Chairman and two-time Olympic gold medalist Hamza Yerlikaya said the decision needs to be reviewed. “It is plain wrong to drop wrestling, which is one of the main branches in Olympics,” Yerlikaya blamed wrestling’s lack of glamour for the decision. “Combat sports have similar struggles. Sports with more glamour are preferred nowadays. But I believe the decision must be reviewed,” Yerlikaya said.

Wrestling’s governing body FILA’s vice president, Ahmet Ayık, another former Turkish wrestling icon, said that the decision is unacceptable. “That’s impossible,” Ayık told Anatolia news agency. “There were rumors but that is not easy. That is just the executive board speaking among themselves. You just cannot say and drop wrestling. It is impossible to drop wrestling.”

IOC spokesman Mark Adams, however, defended the decision, the Associated Press reported. “This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” 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.”

The IOC executive board will meet in May to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC session, or general assembly, in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “Today’s decision is not final,” Adams said. “The session is sovereign and the session will make the final decision.”

Istanbul, along with Tokyo and Madrid, is running for the host city bid of the 2020 Games.