IOC Reduces Number of Weightlifting Athletes in 2020 Olympics

IOC Press Briefing with IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell Photo Courtesy of IOC
IOC Press Briefing with IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell Photo Courtesy of IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) released a press release today outlining changes to the 2020 Olympic program. The IOC added five sports and 15 new events, yet did not increase the total number of athletes competing. In addition, the added sports and events are meant to increase urban appeal and promote gender equality.

How did the IOC do this?

The IOC was able to add new sports and events and keep the athlete count the same by reducing the athlete quotas in eight separate sports. Five of the reductions were made with the intention of reaching gender balance.

One of those sports was Olympic Weightlifting. In 2016, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) added an 8th body weight category for women to match the number of categories for men. However, the IOC is only accepting seven male and seven female body weight categories for the 2020 Olympics.

At this time, no one knows how, or which, weight class will be eliminated or modified to meet the IOC’s mandate. The number of Weightlifting athletes will be 196 at the next Olympic Games compared to the 260 at the 2016 Games, a reduction of 64 athletes.

USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said in response to the changes, “USA Weightlifting applauds the International Olympic Committee and the International Weightlifting Federation for taking this critical step towards gender equality and to retain Weightlifting’s place at the very core of the Olympic Games Program.” He would continue, “We are, of course, very sad to see that the total number of Olympic events is reduced to 14 total, and we wait to see the next steps regarding team size, qualification and which categories will be contested in Tokyo.”

Other sports receiving reductions to athlete quotas to reach gender balance include Rowing, Sailing, Shooting and Wrestling.

Oh, and if you were curious, the five new sports at the 2020 Olympic Games are Sport Climbing, Skateboard, Karate, Baseball/Softball and Surf. 3-on-3 basketball and BMX Freestyle Park (cycling) are two of the 15 new events.