After initially being removed from the list of events for the 2020 Olympic Games, wrestling survived a preliminary cut of events in a vote conducted by the International Olympic Committee Wednesday.
Two other sports also moved to a final round of voting, with baseball/softball and squash also surviving the first cut. The three events are vying for a single spot, which will be determined later this year during a full IOC vote in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The announcement is a surprising reversal for the IOC, who voted to drop the sport from the 2020 games in February. Since then, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) has mounted a strong social media campaign and made a number of leadership changes in an effort to enhance the sport's image and curry favor with the IOC.
"While our place in the Olympic Games is still not guaranteed, this decision recognizes the great lengths to which we are going to [in order to] reform our sport and address the IOC's concerns," FILA President Nenad Lalovic said after Wednesday's IOC announcement. "We recognize that there is still a long road ahead but we will continue to work to preserve our place in the Olympic Games."
Baseball and softball were dropped after the 2008 Games in Beijing, and have since formed a united group - The World Baseball Softball Confederation - that combines both sports into one Olympic event. According to USA Today, a letter of support from Major League Baseball helped the bid's presentation, although there was no promise of MLB players being included in the games if the sport is picked for inclusion.
"We're in the seventh inning, and now we have to hit a home run," WBSC co-president Don Porter said after the announcement.
Squash made the cut after changes were implemented to increase the sport's entertainment value, along with an aggressive marketing campaign that featured a large social media outreach initiative.
This is a huge milestone in our quest to join the Olympic [program]," said World Squash Federation President Shri N. Ramachandran. "Squash would grow all over the world with the Olympic movement."
Eliminated from consideration Wednesday were karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu.
The ultimate IOC decision will be watched closely by the three cities bidding to host the 2020 Games – Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. Bid leaders from the three cities are in St. Petersburg, Russia to make presentations on Thursday at the SportAccord Convention, where Wednesday's vote was held. Wrestling, which has been included in every Olympic Games since their inception in 1896, is particularly popular in Turkey and Japan.