I recently noticed that Wrestling was scheduled to be removed from the 2020 Summer Olympics. In the meantime, the International Olympic Committee has reversed this decision; the 125th IOC Session reinstated the sport, and so it will be part of the program for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

Wrestling is widely practiced, was part of the Ancient Olympic Games, and was played in most Modern Olympics.

Why was it decided to remove Wrestling?

  • Isn't it crazy that horse dancing is in the Olympics, yet they talked about removing the OG Olympics sport, and possibly the greatest and most effective martial art of all time. Is it permanently reinstated? Or will this come up again every four years?
    – coinbird
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 20:27
  • @coinbird Everything is always on the chopping block, just some closer to the blade than others. Gotta make room for E-Sports, and can't have more than x number.. SMH
    – Jammin4CO
    Commented May 29, 2018 at 13:27
  • @Jammin4CO - Logistics aside, putting all current sports (Wrestling, boxing, tkd, etc) under a single sport heading (Combat sports?) and making them events would open up a lot of room under the current sport/event rule structure. (Much like aquatics covers swimming, diving, synchro, water polo, etc)
    – JohnP
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 16:04

3 Answers 3


Long story short, they wanted to drop one sport so that they could add another, and they cited low ticket sales, low popularity, low TV ratings, and a lack of oversight and diversity.

The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission that analyzed 39 criteria, including TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.

"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling; it is what's right with the 25 core sports."

According to IOC documents obtained by the AP, wrestling ranked "low" in several of the technical criteria, including popularity with the public at the London Games -- just below 5 on a scale of 10. Wrestling sold 113,851 tickets in London out of 116,854 available.

Wrestling also ranked "low" in global TV audience with a maximum of 58.5 million viewers and an average of 23 million, the documents show. Internet hits and press coverage were also ranked as low.

The IOC also noted that FILA -- the international wrestling federation -- has no athletes on its decision-making bodies, no women's commission, no ethics rules for technical officials and no medical official on its executive board.

  • 2
    I have no basis for this claim so it is a comment. The statistics quoted on popularity would be greatly skewed by the screen time given by the service provider. If there is not a story on wrestling, I can't click on it. I guarantee* the staffing and equipment provided to cover gymnastics & wrestling were proportional to the statistical "popularity". Therefore this is decided by the TV/Internet editors of major networks, not by IOC; they are just following the data. If all sports were promoted fairly, you could rely on the ratings.
    – Jammin4CO
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 18:04
  • @Jammin4CO: Frankly, the ESPN article makes it clear that it was far from an objective decision, with most of the statistics being added afterwards to justify their decision. Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:36

"I could not get an entry ticket to 'Shotput' because it was sold out" a common complaint, isn't it? No! There are many sports like that which is not a crowd puller. 'Crowd pulling' or 'business' is not a criteria for Olympics. But in fact 'history' is one of the most important criteria for sports in Olympics as stated here: https://theconversation.com/how-sports-get-chosen-for-the-olympics-62917, and Wrestling has it all!

Now, imagine you want to watch an important match of a particular game. But Olympics cannot give you a set time. As many matches like Boxing, Wrestling happens match after match. This uncertainty can also take the crowd away and many may never see the highlights either. In my case I just check for a video on twitter feed that defines key moment. Team sports like hockey and football has fixed schedule. So it is almost impossible to verify which sports is the most popular. Income from a sports can of course be measured but then wrestling won't be the last on that criteria.

The reasons for exclusion seems to be made up and is one sided, which if applied to other sports in Olympics, might lead to the exclusion of many sports. There is still not enough evidence to what lead to such a decision to take down a popular sports. Unlike some said here, it is very popular in many European countries such as Hungary. And most Eastern European countries have Russia influence and culture and Wrestling is a culturally important sport for Russia.

The only conclusion which I could come up with and supported by people here(link below), is that the committee who ever was tasked to do this had people from countries that were not good in wrestling. Or could be those who are jealous of countries who are a powerhouse in wrestling. Or in other words silly human jealousy and hatred could be the reason for such a decision. Olympic committees have had such 'human' fights all the time and will continue to do so. Because not everyone has an MBA degree and if they had they wouldn't be there!


Another issue that could have lead to the exclusion could be the internal fights and biased referring and other mal-practices with in the Wrestling community. eg: Wrestlers can bite and leave marks on the body of the opponent and no punishment will be meted out(even if there are rules preventing it). So if one sports in Olympics take more resources for problem solving('technical criteria') then there is something wrong with that sports and must be eliminated. It could also be that some ex-wrestlers/administrators in the committee could have back-stabbed their own federation. If this was the case then this exclusion gave an opportunity for introspection and then wrestling came back as a new and better sport. Which is something we all prefer in the end too.


I think some European and South American countries are not good at wrestling; they don't get medals in Olympic games. Also, the Olympic committee members are not aware of wrestling's sport value so they take the decision to remove wrestling from the Olympic games for another sport. In the same Games, they have taken so many events.

  • 2
    Whilst some of this may be true - this answer appears as speculation - can you provide articles/references to back up your claims as per the other (highly voted) answer? in its current form it is likely to attract downvotes
    – Collett89
    Commented Sep 7, 2018 at 7:08

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