Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Wrestling hopes changes restore Olympic status

By Matt Steiner Updated: September 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm

The time has come.

After months of campaigning, revamping and strategic positioning, international federations for wrestling, squash and baseball/softball will find out Sunday if their sports will have Olympic life.

All three will go through a second round of presentations, hoping to earn a place in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

The decision, which will be made in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by the International Olympic Committee's General Assembly around 10 a.m. Colorado time, comes seven months after wrestling was removed from the IOC's list of summer Games core sports.

The February ouster prompted wrestling's international governing body FILA to make possibly the most aggressive changes to its sport among the three finalists that will present their cases before the IOC Sunday morning.

"We found the strength to change," said Nenad Lalovic, who took over as president of FILA in February.

The change proved effective as wrestling got new life May 29 when the IOC whittled a field of eight sports to three finalists. The sports that didn't make the cut were karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.

Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, which is based in Colorado Springs, said after the May "semifinals" that the work by officials in his sport wasn't over. Lalovic echoed Bender's sentiments in an interview last week with USA Wrestling.

While many sports media outlets have labeled wrestling a near shoe-in to beat out squash and baseball/softball, Lalovic doesn't want to be too confident.

"We are a little bit nervous," he said. "It's about the future of our sport, so it's not easy. We have all of the burden on our backs for sure."

FILA made rule changes as well as restructuring its leadership during the spring in the sport that dates back to around 700 B.C. and had been part of the modern Olympics since 1896. The organization switched to cumulative scoring instead of a best-of-three-period format and will have three periods instead of two. Lalovic and his team also made room for more women's events.

Squash and baseball/softball also maneuvered to strengthen their sports in the eyes of the IOC and make a run at the 28th and final spot for the 2020 Games.

Baseball and softball were in past Olympics, but the IOC voted them out after 2008.

The sports merged this year to improve their chances of swaying the IOC assembly, but did not make aggressive changes to the games like wrestling.

Baseball/softball's chances may be hindered because Major League Baseball refuses to delay the season to allow the world's top players to compete in the Olympics. Baseball and softball reinstatement would make both the only bat-and-ball sports in the Games.

Softball would bring another women's sport back to the summer Olympics. But more importantly, according to Dave Meyers the head of the Colorado office of the American Softball Association, it would help bring popularity to the sport and again get many more girls excited about playing.

"There are a lot of girls out there looking for something to do," Meyers said. "If they see it in the Olympics, they might decide to give it a try. We work very hard to get our girls to compete at a high level. We believe that softball definitely has a place in the Olympics."

Softball was a medal sport in four Olympic games (1996 to 2008) and baseball was a medal event in five (1992 to 2008).

Squash, the only candidate still in the running for 2020 that has not previously been an Olympic sport, was denied bids to enter the 2012 and 2016 games.

While baseball/softball's popularity is mainly restricted to Asia, Latin America and North America, squash has had world champions from all reaches of the globe. The sport played in a walled-in court like racquetball would join tennis, badminton and table tennis as another racket sport on the Olympic roster.

The World Squash Federation tried to make the sport more spectator-friendly.

Federation president N. Ramachandran and his team created a pair of portable glass courts that can be seen from all sides. The floor lights up and serves as the scoreboard.

The WSF staged exhibition matches this year, dropping courts and erecting bleachers in such places as next to the pyramids in Egypt. The promotional website squash2020.com lists several celebrities, including tennis star Roger Federer, who have given the Olympic bid their support.

Ramachandran is excited to have the opportunity after his sport's other two failed bids.

"As long as you're on the short list, what does it matter?" he said to the Associated Press. "That's how I look at it. I think our chances are better than ever before. Anything can happen."

Comment Policy

Our commenting system has changed. Please register or login with your gazette.com account to comment on a story. Click here for information.

You've reached 4 FREE premium stories this month

Simply register to continue. It's free.

Register Learn more

Already registered? Click here to login.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
SEP
21
SEP
22
SEP
23
SEP
24
SEP
25
SEP
26
SEP
27
SEP
28
SEP
29
SEP
30
OCT
1
OCT
2
OCT
3
OCT
4
Advertisement