The International Olympic Committee today voted to keep wrestling in the 2020 Games in Tokyo after threatening to remove the sport in an effort to increase interest in the summer event.
Wrestling was selected at IOC’s annual meeting in Buenos Aires, beating out squash and a joint effort from baseball and softball.
A part of the Olympics in both its ancient and modern formats, wrestling was forced to win back its spot after being surprisingly cut from the program in February. That decision sparked a global outcry, bringing together nations including the U.S., Iran and Russia to fight for its return.
In the six months, the sport made a series of changes to appease IOC members who demanded wrestling refresh itself. After ousting its president, the sport’s governing body, known as FILA, changed rules to make bouts more media-friendly and added weight categories to boost female participation.
Wrestling has been part of the modern Olympic Games since their 1896 start. The sport was included in the ancient games in Olympia, Greece, as early as 708 B.C.
“Every sport, even the oldest one like ours, must be updated and we failed to do so,” new FILA President Nenad Lalovic said in interview before the vote. “We were sleeping all that time on the pillow of our history. That was our problem. You have to know your history, but in a way you can clearly see your future. We saw very well our history but we didn’t use that to see our future.”
Almost being cut from the Olympics has brought renewed interest in the sport, he said.
“Wrestling has been spoken about more in the last six months than during the last 60 years and that has helped us a lot,” said Lalovic, a Serb who took over as FILA president in May. “If we move successfully from this crisis, this decision from the IOC will have had a big impact on our sport. It gave us the strength to show our strength by changing in such a short time.”