Wrestling yesterday was "chosen as one of three sports that will be considered by" the IOC for inclusion in the '20 Summer Games, but with a "final vote looming in September, the sport’s leaders spent little time celebrating," according to Rachel Blount of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Squash and a joint bid by baseball and softball also were "selected as finalists" at a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia. The IOC’s general assembly will "choose only one to add" to the '20 Games, and wrestling officials yesterday said that they plan to "redouble their efforts to remain an Olympic sport." Since its "ouster was recommended in February, the sport has instituted rule changes to generate more action and excitement; replaced the head of its international federation; and increased the roles of women and athletes in leadership positions." Wrestling won "eight of 14 votes in the first round of balloting Wednesday, after eight sports made presentations to the executive board." Baseball and softball "beat karate 9-5 in a head-to-head vote, and squash received eight votes in the final ballot to defeat wushu (four votes) and sport climbing (two)." Roller sports and wakeboarding also were "considered." Former USOC CEO Jim Scherr "helped make Wednesday’s presentation." He said that wrestling reps plan to "speak with each voting member over the next three months" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/30). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman notes the exec board could have selected "just one sport and recommended that the full IOC rubber-stamp its decision," but officials said that selecting "three finalists would allow for a fairer process." Meanwhile, four members of the exec board are "running to replace" IOC President Jacques Rogge. Voting "against wrestling could have angered former Olympians who are IOC members and are considered strong supporters of wrestling." Baseball and softball would "appear to have the toughest fight" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/30).
NOT RESTING ON THEIR LAURELS: In Chicago, Philip Hersh notes Rogge gave wrestling's moves "a strong endorsement." He said, "I think they had the good answer and the good reaction. They obviously were taken a bit by a surprise by the fact they could leave the core group" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/30). Int'l Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) President Nenad Lalovic said, "It's not finished. But I think we impressed them because we have changed in such a short time." In DC, Liz Clarke notes the final decision "will be made by the 101-member IOC general assembly in a vote scheduled for Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/30). Scherr said, "I'm very relieved, very pleased for the sport. But this is only the first step." USA Wrestling Exec Dir Rich Bender: "There is a lot of work ahead, but we're up to the challenge. The entire wrestling world needs to continue to push forward" (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 5/30). Wrestling Canada President and FILA Pan American Council VP Don Ryan said, "It's a good day, but it's no time to relax. We have a lot of work to do because the Sept. 8 vote. We're still working, we're getting into overtime right now in this process" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 5/30).
BATTER UP: USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside notes the inclusion of baseball and softball was "somewhat of a surprise, given karate was expected to vie for third place." World Baseball Softball Confederation co-President Don Porter said that a "letter of support from Major League Baseball helped the bid's presentation." MLB would not release the letter, but a source said that it "did not include any new proposals that would make major leaguers available for the Games." The absence of MLBers in the Olympics "was a major factor in the IOC's decision to drop baseball and the issue remains critical to any chance of reinstatement" (USA TODAY, 5/30).