Weightlifting Loses 76 Spots In New Athlete Quota For 2024 Paris Olympic Games

Weightlifting received the biggest cut in athlete quota among all Olympic Games programs.

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.”

Olympic Athlete Quota

[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.

IWF Response

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

1 thought on “Weightlifting Loses 76 Spots In New Athlete Quota For 2024 Paris Olympic Games”

  1. I was a member of the USAW Board of Directors for one term 2009-2013. In 2011 of that term I, along with Antonio Urso (president of EWF) and others (including the IWF Auditors Committee, headed by Marino Casadei), signed a petition to the IOC in which we requested that the IOC investigate the financial activities of Tamas Ajan, president of the IWF. We stated that the monies allocated to the IWF from the Olympic games revenues for 1992-2008, amounting to a total of over $23.3 million, had been deposited in two secret Swiss bank accounts, to which only he, Ajan, had access and which were not reported in the IWF annual financial statements. When the existence of these two bank accounts was finally revealed in 2009, as a result mainly of the investigations of Marino Casadei, it was found that a total of $6-8 million were missing from the IWF bank accounts and never accounted for in the IWF financial statements. This and other financial discrepancies were detailed in our petition. We claimed in our petition that this was a proper matter for IOC intervention because the funds allocated to the Olympic sports were designated as to be used for the promotion of the sport, and as the funds were unaccounted for there was no evidence that those funds had been properly used.
    Nevertheless, our petition failed. The reaction from the IOC at that time was that this was nevertheless and internal IWF matter and the IOC would not intervene. And as for my own participation in the petition, not only did I not receive any backing from the other members of the USAW Board of Directors, but they were incensed that I had identified myself on the petition as a member of the Board – for they felt that it implied that they also might support the petition. And indeed they sanctioned me at the time.
    Thus, even though the financial misrepresentations were clear, and strongly indicated embezzlement, and even though there were already by then many well-known reports of abuses in the IWF’s anti-doping program, the USAW Board was totally unwilling to stand up to the Tamas Ajan. Their attitude was that it was too dangerous for the good of USA Weightlifting to oppose or condemn the actions of Tamas Ajan. The statement of the then chairman of our Board during a meeting was also revealing: “Yes, Tamas Ajan might be corrupt, but whoever would replace him probably would be even worse.” Thus the USAW Board never made any move to support my own efforts, or those of the leaders of the European Weightlifting Federation, to call Ajan to account.
    Among the members of the Board at that time was Ursula Papandrea. She subsequently was elected (2017) to be a vice-president on the IWF Board of Directors. That election, of course, was held under the reign of Tamas Ajan, whose influence in rigging elections was legendary and well-known. When Ajan was finally forced to step aside as a result of the ARD television documentary (‘Lord of the Lifters’), he chose Papandrea to be the acting president of the IWF. Also as a result of the ARD documentary and the subsequent McLaren report, the IOC suddenly found its righteous indignation and has threatened to eliminate weightlifting from the Olympics. It has already drastically diminished the quotas for weightlifters in the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for 2020 and even more in the Paris Olympics scheduled for 2024.
    There is a very strong possibility that if the USAW and the IOC had gone full bore against the Ajan abuses at the time of our petition in 2011, the sport might not be in the precarious position that it is presently in.

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