By ALAN THATCHER
A candidate for the IOC presidency has backed wrestling to gain a quick return to the Olympic Games programme, and has criticised the IOC for the way the sport was ejected from the 2020 programme and then almost immediately given a pathway back into the fold.
This may well prove a damaging obstacle to the squash bid, and will contradict the IOC objective of bringing a “new” sport into the Games programme.
Denis Oswald, the Swiss head of the international rowing federation, was a long-serving member of the IOC Executive Board.
During his lobbying for votes to replace the outgoing president, Jacques Rogge, Oswald said the IOC’s surprise decision to exclude wrestling in February was badly handled.
Oswald offered hope to squash and other bidding federations by saying that more sports could join the Games in the future.
However, the actions of the IOC have clearly damaged the chances of squash and the joint bid put forward by baseball and softball, which have joined wrestling in a shortlist of three sports which will be voted on by the IOC in Buenos Aires in September.
Oswald added: “I am no longer on the Executive Board, but I must say I was very surprised that wrestling was eliminated.
“Their federation maybe did not make the effort but I think there were other ways to warn them because wrestling is a basic sport (of the Games) and I am convinced they will come back.
“We could have solved the problems if we had a more creative approach.”
Oswald wants to remove the IOC cap of 28 sports, allowing more sports t join in the future if existing ones reduced the number of events under their umbrella.
For example, synchronised swimming and a multitude of diving events come under the banner of swimming. Similarly, BMX bike races come under cycling.
Oswald said the IOC had disrupted its own stated objective of revamping the Games to attract a younger audience by voting back in a sport that was excluded earlier this year, resulting on no changes being made to the 2020 schedule.
Wrestling: a multitude of medals and the Putin factor
Should squash gain entry to the 2020 Games, four medals would be on offer to male and female competitors, gold, silver and two bronze for the semi-finals losers (although a third-fourth play-off would reduce that to a single bronze).
Wrestling, however, has seven different weight categories for male athletes and four for women, meaning a medals tally of 33.
Conspiracy theorists highlighted the fact that the IOC meeting in St Petersburg may have been influenced by the Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has been pictured wrestling on several occasions and has voiced his support for the sport to remain in the Olympics.
Major nations like Russia may influence voting patterns via sponsorship and support of sports infrastructure in impoverished or emerging nations.
Russia emerged with 11 medals from the wrestling programme at the 2012 Olympic Games in London and would obviously provide immense support for such a popular sport.
During the meeting in St Petersburg, Putin sat next to outgoing president Rogge at a lunch where he offered his support for wrestling.
Putin said: “Wrestling is one of the fundamental sports of the Olympics, based on ancient traditions.”