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In a move that has shocked the sports world, the International Olympic Committee has reportedly decided to drop wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympics program.
Reuters first reported that the IOC’s Executive Board recommended that wrestling be dropped. It is among seven sports that will fight for one last slot on the 2020 program. The IOC will hold a final vote in September in Buenos Aires.
“This is not the end of the process, this is purely a recommendation,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the media following the vote. “It is the session which is sovereign.”
Adams added, “It was a decision to look at the core sports, what works best for the Olympic games. This was the best programme for the 2020 Olympics. This is not about what's wrong with wrestling but what is good for the Games.”
The news comes as a total surprise. Wrestling has been an Olympic sport since the first one in 1896 and was included in the Ancient Greek Olympics. It still has a wide global appeal, something that sports such as modern pentathlon and taekwondo - which will both be featured in 2020 - do not have.
Wrestling will have to compete with baseball and softball, martial arts karate and wushu, rollersports, wakeboarding, squash and sports climbing for the last spot.
“It is a huge setback for the sport. It came as a complete shocker. I cannot believe that IOC can take such a harsh decision about one of the oldest sports in the Olympics,” Sushil Kumar, who medaled in London, told The Times of India.
The U.K. Guardian notes that Iran was particularly disappointed. The country earned the third-most wrestling medals in London. Over half of the 60 medals Iran has won in Olympic history are for wrestling.
"This will be a huge blow to our country's sports," Mohammad Ali-Abadi told the media in Iran. “Wrestling is one of our country's most popular and dominant sports.”
The location of the 2020 Olympics hasn’t been set yet. Madrid, Tokyo and Istanbul are currently in the running.