Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the International Olympic Committee put wrestling back into the Olympics, choosing it over the combined baseball/softball bid for the 2020 and 2024 Games.
Baseball and softball had made the cut in May to the final three sports along with wrestling and squash being considered by the IOC’s executive board. Wrestling won the final vote in a simple majority, according to a press release by the IOC. A USA Today report said the vote was 49 for wrestling, 24 for baseball/softball and 22 for squash.
Baseball was added to the Olympics in 1984 in Los Angeles as a demonstration sport, with the first medals awarded in 1992 in Barcelona. Cuba won the gold in 1992, 1996 and 2004, while the U.S. won gold in 2000 and South Korea won the final event in 2008 in Beijing.
Baseball and softball were voted out in 2005 as the IOC moved to streamline the Games program. The vote also was seen as an anti-American move in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and also as a political maneuver by IOC president Jacques Rogge, who later steered rugby sevens and golf onto the Olympic program, sports he and his wife long have championed.
With Tokyo chosen as the host of the 2020 Games, baseball and softball could have rejoined the Olympics in style, in one of the countries most familiar with the sports. It would have been more difficult to imagine baseball and softball returning in Istanbul or Madrid, the other finalists for 2020.
While Major League Baseball has moved on from the Olympics with the creation of the World Baseball Classic, USA Baseball and other governing bodies around the world crave the government funding that comes with being on the Olympic program. So the IOC’s decision, while not surprising considering wrestling’s historic place in the Olympics dating back to ancient Greece, was a blow.
“While we are obviously disappointed with the decision of the International Olympic Committee to not move forward with baseball and softball for inclusion on the Olympic program in 2020, we continue to believe the combined efforts of baseball and softball provide a great platform for international competition and we look forward to continuing our joint efforts of growing baseball and softball worldwide,” USA Baseball’s Paul Seiler said in a statement.
“USA Baseball will continue to promote baseball and softball both internationally and domestically through our various initiatives, and we look forward to the opportunity to return to the Olympic program in the future.”