ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - A shock International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games programme and then include it in a shortlist of sports for those Games was no mistake, IOC president Jacques Rogge said on Friday.
Wrestling was taken off the programme in February in a move that stunned the sporting world but it managed to join baseball/softball and squash this week as one of three sports that will be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Games.
The IOC will elect the winning sport at its session in Buenos Aires in September.
“I do not see shortcomings in the system, I do not see errors in the system,” Rogge told reporters at the end of a three-day executive board meeting.
The IOC set out to revamp the Games programme to make it more relevant to a younger generation of fans and sponsors but, with wrestling back as a candidate for inclusion, the procedure has been heavily criticised for having achieved little change.
“We do not want change for change,” Rogge said. “The purpose is to have the best possible Olympic Games.”
Rogge, whose 12-year stint at the helm of the IOC comes to an end in September, said the body had been adding sports to the programme for decades before deciding to cap the number at 28.
”When I was elected (in 2001) we were at the end of a period where sports were only added - from 20 (sports) at the Seoul Games in 1988 to 28 in Sydney in 2000.
“There was a need to put a cap on the size of the Games but we felt we could not freeze the programme and we needed change.”
Rogge said the IOC’s decision in February to exclude wrestling, which had been in every Games since 1896 apart from 1900, was right as it prompted immediate changes within the federation and the sport.
He shrugged off suggestions that a return of wrestling to the Games at the IOC session in Buenos Aires would defeat the purpose of the exercise.
“If there is the consideration that one sport is better than the other it should be chosen even if it is an existing sport,” said the Belgian surgeon.
“Do not bring a new one in for the sake of a new one.”
IOC Vice-President Thomas Bach, seen as a frontrunner to succeed Rogge, said wrestling had got the message and shaped up just in time. The sport made changes in rules and competitions and in its organisation and took action on gender equality.
“Wrestling gave a very good presentation, you could clearly see they got the message,” Bach, one of six presidential hopefuls, said.
“They took the right decisions. Sometimes for great reforms you need pressure.”
Editing by Clare Fallon