The International Olympic Committee yesterday gave provisional recognition to the four international federations, the first step toward possible acceptance as Olympic sports.
Body-building was recognised despite its poor record of drug abuse. "The sport has been observed at length by us," Francois Carrard, the IOC's director general, said. "From what we have been told, the abuses and excesses of drugs were caused by outside elements and not caused by the federation. We know the federation is doing a lot to eliminate drugs and to have its sport clean."
The recognition of sumo will be particularly welcome in Japan, where it is one of the country's most popular sports. Sumo wrestlers will take part in the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics in Nagano next Saturday.
Recognition of the four federations is valid for a two-year trial period. After that, full recognition can be granted by the IOC. Then, the sport becomes eligible for Olympic status.
"The policy of the IOC is to open the doors to all sports," Carrard said. "Recognition doesn't necessarily mean they will go on the Olympic programme."
There are more than two dozen recognised federations which are not in the Olympics, including golf, bowling, rugby and squash.