On Dec. 7, 2020, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board approved the event program for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Additionally, they adjusted the athlete quota for the entire Olympic Games to be 10,500 total across all sports. That is a cut of 592 spots compared to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which had a total athlete quota of 11,092.
According to their press release, weightlifting was the sport that received the largest reduction in athlete quota. For the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, weightlifting is set to have 196 athletes compete across all divisions. For the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, weightlifting has been allocated a quota of 120 athletes total across all divisions. There will only be five bodyweight categories each for the men’s and women’s divisions.
That’s a cut of 76 athletes and the second major cut in athlete quota for the sport in as many Olympic Games — at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, weightlifting had an athlete quota of 260. There were reductions in athlete quotas for 28 different sports. The decisions of where to reduce quotas “has been proportionate and focused on those sports that can best absorb the reduction.”
These changes were made in addition to announcing gender-equality reforms — the 2024 Paris Olympic Games will be evenly split by gender — and new Olympic sports, such as breakdancing. The reduction in athlete quotas were made to account for spots in the new sports as well as a “post-Corona world.”
[Related: Phil Andrews: What’s Needed For International Weightlifting Reform]
Weightlifting At The Olympic Games
The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) will finalize “specific weight classes…in the fourth quarter of 2021,” and that the reduction in athlete quota is not a guarantee that weightlifting will still be a part of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games:
“It also reiterated that the place of weightlifting on the programme of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 continues to be subject to ongoing review by the IOC.”
That ongoing review involves the continuing turbulence the IWF has sustained in their constitutional governance since their former president, Dr. Tamas Aján. Aján was accused of financial corruption and doping cover-ups by the German documentary The Lord of the Lifters. Much of the financial corruption was corroborated by the ensuing investigation lead by Professor Richard McLaren in the McLaren Report.
Aján resigned and his responsibilities were delegated to Interim President Ursula Papandrea. However, the IWF Executive Board has since ousted her amidst controversial circumstances and replaced her with Intarat Yodbangtoey of Thailand. Two days later, Yodbangtoey and Dr. Michael Irani has since held the position.
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The IOC said they are “deeply concerned” about the findings in the McLaren Report and threatened weightlifting’s place as part of the Olympic program if significant and sufficient reforms were not made to the IWF’s governance. Despite the frequent leadership changes, some of the steps that have taken place thus far are the reestablishing of the Anti-Doping Commission, the IWF Athletes Commission, and the IWF Independent Disciplinary And Ethics Commission. However, Chair of the Athletes Commission Sarah Davies has since started a petition to “help push for a vote of no confidence of the IWF Executive Board” following the removal of Papandrea.
On the same day as IOC’s press release, the IWF published their response:
“Clean weightlifters continue to pay a woefully heavy price for inadequate governance and for those — from a relatively limited number of countries — who tried to take shortcuts to success at London 2012 and Beijing 2008. [The IWF] believes they can meet the IOC’s criteria for remaining on the Paris 2024 Olympic program and even reach the point where we restore Olympic weightlifting opportunities for a new generation of clean weightlifters. We have already embarked on a journey towards radical governance reform. But we must be under no illusion about the scope and scale of change required.”
Although the fate of weightlifting at future Games is still up in the air, assuming it remains on the program, there will be fewer weightlifters competing at 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Feature image from IWF’s Instagram page: @iwfnet