Swimming Jumps to Top of IOC Funding Ladder; Three Sports Named for Possible 2020 Inclusion

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.

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I was somewhat surprised at an implicit complaint by IAAF president. In London almost every event was filled with spectators. It is something for what London will be remembed. As for universality swimming has improved over time. In a typical final there can be swimmers from three to even five continents. When you look at a typical final in a running event in athletics, a situation can be much less universal in this regard. Of course there is room for progress in swimming. I hope for more athletes from South America (i.e. also outside of Brazil), Africa, Middle East and Southern Asia (e.g. India) to be in finals in future. The problem with unwillingness among top athletes to participate concerns… Read more »


Actually, I saw (on tv) many seat sections empty in the swimming venue during London olympics.

I understand that those empty seats were reserved for corporate sponsors, but still, I was completely raged when I saw that. They could have given them to me, and I’d have flown to London.


While swimming has become more known as it once was, it tends to fade away once the Olympics has been completed. Track and basketball are still the hardest tickets to buy for the games. Gabby Douglass did something extraordinary and will remain a top dollar draw. As a person that paid for those tickets I can tell you that basketball and track are the most expensive tickets on the market because the athletes are known on an international scale. Barcelona is remembered because of the dream team and it’s easier to sell merchandise designed for them. You simply can’t create a global shoe for a swimmer because the appeal isn’t large enough. The gentleman was correct in his assessment because… Read more »


Swimming really needs an equivalent of track’s Diamond League series of meets. The World Cup is nowhere close to that kind of series.

A diamond league would be good, but i think one event like Fast Lane(countries fight against each other in fast races) is better for TV schedule.


I understand your argument about the need for minorities…or really just more representative countries…instead of the most populous/wealthiest…

unfortunately, swimming (like gymnastics) requires equipment…A POOL. Track doesn’t require anything except MAYBE a pair of shoes…

people watch what they’re familiar with. If people of certain countries don’t know swimmers from their country, they’re less likely to watch it. And if their country doesn’t have the infrastructure to support either publicly or privately a national team (of sorts)…it’s nearly impossible to build that foundation for future generations in the sport.

Even today, most of the best swimmers in the world go to college in the US. Hopefully swimming can be even more widespread…but it’s going to take a lot of funding.


IOC should do away with irrelevant sport like modern pentathlon.

If they can think to get rid of wrestling, why not modern pentathlon first?
Who plays modern pentathlon anyway? maybe extremely few europeans.

It’s the same thing with handball.

IOC and the olympics is too euro-centric.


Handball meets the standards for global participation far better than any number of the sailing classes. We just don’t see much of it in the US because the similar skill set basketball is so extremely entrenched. Sheila Taormina did modern pentathlete. And became a global elite in the sport in roughly 18 months even though she’d never really shot, fenced, or ridden a horse until after she retired from professional triathlon. IMO, if your sport’s talent pool is thin enough that someone can go from zero to highly globally ranked in an allegedly very technical sport 18 months*, then you probably don’t belong in the Olympics. * note the phrase ‘highly technical sport’ because I’ve got an odd soft spot… Read more »

Handball is pretty much competitive.. but it is true that the powers are the Europeans, but South Korea and Japan are quite a bit competitive.. and Brazil and Argentina are already playing on equal field with any power on this sport.. it is much more global and leveled than things like wrestling..

On sailing at the last worlds.. with only 30 medals availabe.. we had 12 differente countries medalling..


I think that an array of the Olympic sports should be quite balanced in terms of popularity around the world. Every part of the world should have something at the schedule. After the dropping of wrestling, an underrepresentation of Middle East countries increased.

The Olympics is euro-centric since Europe is best at sport as a whole, and by far 🙂 This is of course slowly and surely changing, which is only a good thing.

Lane Four


Agreed.No Pentathon and no wrestling.They can be replaced by girls fighting in the mud!:]

Personally, i like Wushu, but is not well know by americans(i got practice when i was a teen), dont stand a chance to go.

Wushu is probably the most practiced martial arts in the world behind Judo.. it is a small variation of the more common name martial arts Kung Fu.


I watched some handball at the Olympics this year, it was a pretty cool sport and very physical too. (I’m American)

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of SwimSwam.com. He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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