FISA wrapped its weekend meetings in Tokyo at the Extraordinary Congress, electing to recommend an Olympic schedule for the 2020 Games that eliminates the lightweight men's four and replaces it with a women's four.
The result was exactly what was expected and FISA believes it has selected a proposal that best meets the IOC gender equality goals, and one it believes the IOC will accept. The FISA proposal was adopted by a vote of 94 to 67 over an alternate option proposed by Australia, China Denmark and Switzerland which called for replacing the men's open four with a lightweight women's four.
In closing the meeting FISA president Jean-Christophe Rolland called the congress deliberations difficult but the results acceptable.
"It was quite intense, certainly tiring, but fruitful and we are now ready for the new Olympic cycle," he said. The proposal will be presented to the IOC for a vote in July. If accepted, rowing is expected to remain a 14-event sport with an athlete quote of 550.
While there was strong opposition to the elimination of the lightweight men's four, FISA believes that if the event were proposed to remain on the Olympic schedule, the IOC would have moved to eliminate it and possible reduce the athlete quota overall and eliminate more than just the one event.
There will now be just two lightweight boats in the Olympic program, the men's and women's lightweight doubles.
In other business, the congress delegates voted to change the racing distance for Paralympic events from one-thousand meters to a full two-thousand. For complete information on the proposed and voted on changes, plus video and live blog posts made during the meeting go here.
The proposal to eliminate the lightweight men's four has been three years in the making, according to Rolland, who told the delegation that the IOC wanted to eliminate lightweight rowing completely at the start of the debate following the 2012 Olympics in London.
Under pressure to conform to the IOC's drive to broaden inclusion and gender equality across the Olympic movement, Roland argued that any proposal that did not eliminate the lightweight men's four would likely have been rejected by the Olympic international governing body.
"We all agree that the best, most valuable and sustainable future for the sport of rowing is (FISA's) top priority, in the more and more competitive world of sports," Roland said at the start of the meeting on Friday.
"And to achieve this, we strongly believe that we must keep the strongest position within the Olympic movement. And do we do that by maintaining 14 events, by keeping the lightweights in our program and as much of our athlete quota as possible. This is absolutely crucial for us."
Much of the opposing views to the FISA proposal came from many of the smaller countries that do not have the athlete pool, or available resources, to field a large and open weight team.
"We have built our program over 30 years, from nothing, entirely on lightweight rowing, and our government and federation has made a lot of investment in developing our sport," said Hong Kong's Chris Perry. "I think we are a small example of what can be done in a small place with a small population to develop the sport.
"People have said that universality arguments are not supported because the entry in the world championships or Olympic qualifications is small. But if you look at the entries in Asian competition, you will see the largest entries by far in the lightweight event," he said. "So lightweight is very important to us."
Reactions in the context of the Congress were muted, but across social media, observers lamented the loss of the iconic event.
For complete information on the proposed and voted on changes, plus video and live blog posts made during the meeting go to World Rowing.