The traditional Korean marital art of taekwondo will remain an Olympic sport for the foreseeable future after surviving the latest scrutiny by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), officials here said Tuesday.
At the IOC Executive Board meeting, taekwondo was kept on as one of 25 "core sports" in the Summer Olympic program. Out of 26 sports competed at the London Games, the IOC board decided to drop wrestling.
Mark Adams, the IOC spokesman, told reporters that the decision was reached through a secret ballot over multiple rounds, with 15 board members voting each round on which sport they felt should be eliminated from the core group. Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, didn't vote.
For the 2020 Summer Olympics, the IOC will add a new sport, with baseball-softball, karate, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu competing for the single spot.
Rogge has previously said there would need to be "exceptional circumstances," such as a drug scandal, corruption or a massive drop in popularity, for a core sport to be dropped from the Olympics.
International federations for baseball and softball have merged into a single entity, hoping to strengthen their chances of returning to the Olympics. They were the last sports to be voted out of the Olympic program by the IOC in 2005. They were last played at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Golf and rugby have taken their places for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Wrestling is also eligible to compete with those sports to reenter the Olympic program, but it's unlikely the IOC will approve a sport it has just dropped.
The IOC Executive Board will meet in St. Petersburg, Russia, in May to decide which sport to suggest for including in 2020. The final decision on the new sport will be reached at the IOC's general meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September. The host city of the 2020 Olympics will also be decided then.
Taekwondo became a medal sport in 2000 and it is contested in eight weight divisions, four each for men and women. Taekwondo, however, has for years remained in potential danger of losing its spot in the Olympic program for its supposed lack of global appeal and high-profile judging controversies.
The sport got a much-needed boost at the London Olympics.
Taekwondo used electronic protective vests and socks for scoring for the first time in London, with sensors awarding fighters points for only strikes of sufficient force. Officials also introduced instant video replays for the first time. These moves were designed to eliminate judging disputes and generally drew favorable reviews, with no major judging scandal.
The point scale also changed in London. At the Beijing Games, competitors earned one point for an attack to the body and two for a kick to the head. In London, they received one point for the body, two points for a turning kick to the trunk, three points for a valid kick to the head and four points for a turning kick to the head.
The new scoring system led to several high-scoring bouts and dramatic come-from-behind victories, the likes of which were hardly seen in Beijing.
South Korea had dominated previous Olympic taekwondo competitions and the country swept up four gold medals in Beijing.
In a display of increased global parity, however, eight gold medals up for grabs in London were won by athletes from eight different countries, including South Korea, Argentina, Turkey, Italy and Serbia. In all, 21 nations won a taekwondo medal in London.
The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), headquartered in Seoul with a South Korean president Choue Chung-won, had 204 member nations as of October last year. In response to criticism that its organization had been too Korea-centric, the WTF last February appointed Jean-Marie Ayer of Switzerland as its secretary general.
He is the first non-Korean to assume the post since the WTF's inception in 1973.
Choue welcomed the IOC decision.
"It is quite significant that taekwondo will remain an Olympic sport and that we didn't let down 204 WTF member states and 80 million practitioners of our sport," Choue said. "I will work with the rest of the taekwondo community to keep taekwondo in the Olympic program beyond the IOC general meeting in September." (Yonhap News)