FINA and the IOC both announced on Wednesday at their Executive Board Meetings in St. Petersburg, Russia that swimming has been boosted into the top tier of Olympic funding for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janiero, Brazil.
Swimming and Gymnastics were both moved into that top tier, where they will sit alongside Athletics (track & field, marathon, race walking, etc.) and Gymnastics.
“We have always considered our Aquatic disciplines a pillar of the Olympics, and this decision confirms this status,” FINA President Dr. Julio C. Maglione said. Our events are attended by worldwide stars, generate memorable performances and reach a worldwide audience in the five continents. The entire FINA Family must be praised for this achievement, which can only be done with its contribution. We have requested this research in order to establish the FINA fair contribution to the Games programme and we will continue our effort and strategy to make our Sport bigger and more important within the sport business community. FINA is very proud, together with all the International Federations integrating the Olympic programme, to provide its contribution to the success of the Olympic Games, a great celebration of humanity, friendship and fair-play.”
Though athletics remains in that ‘Group A’, the presence of its two new counterparts means that track is likely to receive best money. That prompted some scathing comments by IAAF president Lamine Diack to ESPN:
“Aquatics is a nice sport. Gymnastics is a nice sport,” Diack said. “But you cannot compare with athletics. We are the only sport which makes the games universal. We filled the stadium in London for nine days. The games in Rio will start when the athletics starts. The sport that will make the games special is athletics.”
Group B comprises basketball, cycling, football, tennis and volleyball.
Group C has archery, badminton, boxing, judo, rowing, shooting, table tennis and weightlifting.
Group D is made up of canoe/kayaking, equestrian, fencing, handball, field hockey, sailing, taekwondo, triathlon and wrestling.
Group E has modern pentathlon, golf and rugby.
The new rankings are representative of the increasing visibility of swimming and gymnastics, especially in the inter-Olympic years where athletes like Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Chad le Clos and gymnastics all-around champion Gabby Douglas have built a wave of post-Olympic momentum for their sports that can really only be matched by track (among those sports where the Olympics are the pinnacle.)
Golf and rugby, the two newest sports, will enter at the bottom level with modern pentathlon, which is a new tier to the funding structure. This is not a big surprise, as many expected modern pentathlon might be the victim when the IOC decided to drop a sport from the current schedule, which they ultimately decided would be wrestling.
There is somewhat of a glimmer of hope for wrestling: one of the original Olympic sports. The IOC voted to narrow eight finalists to three for addition to the 2020 Olympic schedule. At present, as the IOC tries to look at a possible adjustment to its sport offering, 2016 would be the last Olympics for wrestling.
Now, that federation will compete with squash (a major sport in large emerging markets like India) and baseball/softball to be added to the 2020 Games lineup as the 28th sport.
Baseball/softball was the last sport dropped, citing a lack of global competitiveness and the reluctance in baseball for the sport’s top athletes to participate. The former of those matters has been somewhat alleviated with the development of the Baseball World Cup event, which sold record-breaking crowds in their 2013 edition, and the confederation under the joint World Baseball Softball Confederation, which will present a more unified front.
“It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the Board made a good decision in selecting baseball/softball, squash and wrestling to be put forward in Buenos Aires,” IOC president Jacques Rogge said. “I wish the three shortlisted sports the best of luck in the run-up to the vote in September and would like to thank the other sports for their hard work and dedication.”
The five sports that will not move on to the final round of voting, set to take place in Buenos Aires from September 7th-10th, were karate, in-line roller racing, sport climbing, wakeboarding, and an artistic form of the martial art wushu.
FILA, the governing body of wrestling, has appointed a new president Nenad Lalovic since their Olympic ouster, and among sweeping reforms to modernize the sport, has received much praise for his work.