Wrestling icons Yoshida, Icho promote Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid

by Jack Gallagher

Staff Writer

The International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission continued its tour of venues for Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics on Wednesday with a visit to Tokyo Big Sight.

The sprawling complex next to Tokyo Bay would play host to wrestling, fencing and taekwondo if the capital city wins the right to host the games, as well as be home to the Main Press Center and International Broadcast Center.

The commission was greeted by three-time wrestling gold medalists Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho at the venue. The pair is hoping the sport will remain in the Olympics after it was provisionally dropped by the IOC last month. Wrestling has a chance to get back in the Olympic program when the IOC meets again in May in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“I don’t have a vote, but I would at least like to go to the presentation,” said Yoshida. “The only thing I can do is pray that wrestling stays in.”

Yoshida and Icho both won gold in London, Beijing and Athens. Tomoaki Fukuda, president of the Japan Wrestling Federation and a vice president of wrestling’s international governing body (FILA), spoke briefly to the commission.

“I can only say that I am in a very delicate position now, but I thank you very much for coming,” Fukuda commented.

The proposed elimination of wrestling came as a big surprise to the Japanese wrestling community. Fukuda is already looking at how wrestling can regain its spot as one of the IOC’s core Olympic sports.

“FILA wants to follow the standards set by the IOC for the May presentation,” Fukuda stated. “There are other sports that are on the block. We will discuss our options with experts and give a strong presentation.”

Fencer Yuki Ota, a silver medalist in London in the team foil event, spoke to the commission and reiterated the commitment of his fellow Japanese athletes to bring the Summer Games back to Japan for the first time since 1964.

“We stand united in the effort to bring the 2020 Games to Tokyo,” Ota said.

The commission will wrap up its visit to Tokyo on Thursday. Tokyo is vying with Istanbul and Madrid to hold the 2020 Games.

The IOC will select the winner at a meeting in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7.