Last February, the International Olympic Committee Executive Board voted to drop wrestling from the 2020 Games — an announcement that stunned sports lovers worldwide. Arguably the world’s oldest organized sport, wrestling had been part of the ancient Olympics since 708 B.C., and the sport has been a main focus of every modern Olympics since the Games resumed in 1896.
To show solidarity, national teams from Iran, Russia and the United States competed in mid-May at the Rumble on the Rails, an exhibition match held inside New York’s iconic Grand Central Terminal. Though political relations between the three nations have been notoriously frosty, the athletic gathering was able to break down barriers. Wrestling is considered the national sport of Iran, and thousands of Iranian-Americans came to the match to cheer on the national team in its first competition in the U.S. in a decade.
On May 29, the IOC will announce its recommendation of a sport or a shortlist of sports for a single slot in the 2020 games. Wrestling is competing with seven other sports for that single slot, meaning the sport’s supporters will soon know if their fight has led to victory.