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OTHERS > IOC faces backlash over wrestling

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Turkey is among the countries that have voiced its concerns on the decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games. AA photo

Turkey is among the countries that have voiced its concerns on the decision to drop wrestling from the Olympic Games. AA photo

Wrestling may be facing a bleak time as regards its Olympic future but it could have the last laugh at the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) session in September.

IOC members were already angry that such an important issue as voting a sport off the Olympic program should be decided initially by the 15-member Executive Board.

Now that anger, mixed with the backlash over the expulsion of wrestling could boil over at the Congress from September 7-10.

Mohammad Aliabadi, the head of Iran’s National Committee of Olympic, was quoted by Iran’s official IRNA news agency yesterday as calling the decision “very serious.”

He added, “Resorting to help of many big countries, we will block the decision.”

Aliabadi did not name any country, but the independent Etemad newspaper referred to Iran, the United States and Russia as the “Axis” who should confront the “Allies” who seek to axe wrestling from the games.

Call for solidarity

Iran’s Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, Mohammad Abbasi, also called for “solidarity” in appealing against the decision, speaking to Anatolia News Agency in Ankara yesterday.

In a separate event, Turkey’s Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç voiced his concern.

“Wrestling is a highly important branch for me. Half of our Olympic medals came from wrestling,” Kılıç said. “We hope that wrestling continues to be an Olympic branch.”

It could also cast a shadow over the climax of IOC President Jacques Rogge’s 12-year term, but it’s a scenario that some members believe was entirely avoidable.

An IOC member told AFP it could end up making the whole process look ridiculous.

“We could see because of the furor over wrestling’s expulsion that the next EB meeting decides to put forward three sports including wrestling for consideration at the Congress,” the member said. “If that is the case then wrestling stands a very good chance of being voted back onto the program. Then where does that put this whole process? It just makes it look ludicrous. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

The furor surrounding wrestling’s predicament is in stark contrast to the rather muted reaction to the voting off of baseball and softball in 2009, probably because they ended up being replaced by the commercially attractive golf and rugby sevens.

This time round, however, the candidate sports don’t carry as much glamour as those two.

However, unlike baseball and softball, who have joined forces to try and regain their Olympic spot, wrestling, for many, belongs in the Olympics because of its historic ties to the Games.

Wrestling will now have to do something they were guilty of not doing before: lobbying.

“The trouble for wrestling is that they don’t have an IOC member so when it came to the lobbying there was no one on the inside fighting for them,” said the IOC member. “By voting wrestling off they were safe in that they weren’t offending one of their own, an IOC member.”

February/15/2013

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