Wrestling, baseball/softball and squash were recommended by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board for inclusion in the 2020 Games.
The three sports, with baseball and softball submitted as a joint bid, were selected over karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu at a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, to discuss which sport to add to the schedule.
A final vote on one of the three will take place in September at a full meeting of IOC members in Buenos Aires, which also will decide which city out of Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo hosts the games.
The sports were chosen by secret ballot over several rounds. Wrestling gained approval in the first round with eight of the 14 votes; baseball/softball beat karate 9-5 in a head-to-head vote; and squash got through in the final round with eight votes, topping wushu (four votes) and sport climbing (two votes), according to the Associated Press.
“There’s no question wrestling will get selected but the real question is will there be motions from the floor to expand the number of sports,” Harvey Schiller, a past president of the International Baseball Federation, said in a phone interview from St. Petersburg. “There’s a good opportunity for baseball/softball when it’s put before the entire congress.”
Despite current rules that call for only one more sport to be added to the schedule, there’s been a lot of discussion over adding another team sport, said Schiller, the chairman and chief executive officer of GlobalOptions Group Inc.
“I’m very optimistic about it, though at the same time I’m realistic about the fact that wrestling had such a strong presence on this vote that it will look pretty good going forward,” Schiller said.
Twenty-five core sports were selected for inclusion in February, while golf and rugby sevens will join the program for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, meaning wrestling, baseball/softball and squash are competing to be the 28th sport.
“It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the board made a good decision,” Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC, said in a statement. “I wish the three shortlisted sports the best of luck in the run-up to the vote in September and would like to thank the other sports for their hard work and dedication.”
Wrestling was dropped from the list of core sports for 2020 in February, even though it’s been part of the modern Olympic program since 1896 and was in the ancient games in Greece. The IOC systematically reviews every sport following each Olympics. It said 39 criteria are used to determine sports’ suitability for inclusion, including youth appeal, universality, popularity, good governance, respect for athletes and respect for Olympic values.
Baseball and softball were removed from the Olympics following a 2005 vote and last appeared at the 2008 Beijing Games. The two joined in an effort to return. Baseball’s inclusion was hampered by the fact that the Major League Baseball season runs concurrent with the Summer Games, limiting participation of the sport’s top athletes.
The 25 core sports now on the Olympic roster for 2020 are aquatics, archery, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, soccer, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, track, triathlon, volleyball and weightlifting.