(Reuters) - International Olympic Committee (IOC) presidential hopeful Denis Oswald distanced himself from the body’s current leadership on Monday, saying wrestling’s 2020 Olympics exit could have been handled better and that more sports could join the Games.
The Swiss head of the international rowing federation, who as a long-time IOC Executive Board member was part of the decision-making process until 2012, said the IOC’s February exclusion of wrestling from the 2020 Games was not well handled.
The ancient sport, part of all Games since 1896 apart from the 1900 Olympics, would no doubt win back its Games spot after make a three-sport shortlist for inclusion in 2020, Oswald said.
Baseball/softball and squash are the other two shortlisted sports and the IOC will elect one winning sport at its session in Buenos Aires in September. IOC President Rogge said last week the organization had made no mistake in the controversial affair.
“I am no longer on the Executive Board...but I must say I was very surprised that wrestling was eliminated,” Oswald, bidding against five other candidates for the presidency, told reporters on a telephone conference call from Lausanne.
“The (wrestling) federation maybe did not make the effort but I think there were other ways to warn them because wrestling is a basic sport (of the Games) and I am convinced they will come back.”
“We should consider that (the Olympic program) with a more creative approach. We could have solved the problems if we had this more creative approach.”
Oswald said that despite an IOC cap of 28 sports he could see more sports joining in the future if existing ones reduced events that were not “universally” popular or the number of athletes.
The IOC started the process of revamping the Games to keep up with a younger audience but could now end up voting back in the same sport it excluded months ago and making no change to the Games program from the 2020 Olympics onwards.
“What I propose is not to limit strictly at 28 sports but reduce the representation of some sports’ disciplines. Even in major sports there are some disciplines that are not universal,” he said without naming specific sports.
“A review in such a way can reduce events and athletes and make room for other sports,” he said.
He rejected an idea for a united world championships of both Olympic and non-Olympic sports as announced by the new head of umbrella body SportAccord.
“I don’t think these proposals are realistic or can be implemented. It is no danger to the Games but it lessens the significance of the Games and we have to defend the position of Games being unique and special.”
Oswald said he did not believe violent demonstrations in Turkey were hampering Istanbul’s bid to stage the 2020 Olympics, with Tokyo and Madrid also bidding.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey’s biggest cities over the weekend and clashed with riot police firing tear gas, leaving hundreds of people injured.
The unrest was sparked by protests against government plans to redevelop Istanbul’s Taksim Square, long a rallying point for mass demonstrations, but widened into a broad show of defiance against the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).
“It is a protest that can happen in any democratic country. We will see how it develops, how important it is. We are still three months away but for the time being I don’t think it is a threat for the candidature,” he said.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann