Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1137, 28 February - 6 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Hope for the mat

Wresting   might be dropped from the 2020 olympics but fingers remain crossed, reports Ghada Abdel-Kader

Al-Ahram Weekly

The world of wrestling was stunned by the recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to perhaps remove wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. The decision, taken at the IOC’s Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on 12 February, makes way for golf and rugby to join the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The 25 core sports for the 2020 Summer Games are shooting, athletics, rowing, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football, gymnastics, weightlifting, handball, hockey, judo, swimming, modern pentathlon, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, archery, triathlon, sailing and volleyball.
The EB voted after reviewing a report by the IOC programme commission report that analyzed 39 criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors. Wrestling was apparently ranked “low” in several technical criteria.
Several reasons played a part in the decision, the IOC’s Media Relations Manager Andrew Mitchell told Al-Ahram Weekly. “The Olympic Programme Commission’s report is based on 39 criteria and over 70 questions. There is no single reason why a sport would not make the core, but the decision is made based on numerous factors. The Olympic programme must balance historical perspectives with new trends, universal participation and regional preferences, team and individuals sports, and combat and artistic disciplines.”
“In other words, it must appeal to the interests of people of all ages around the world. It has to cater for all tastes. Thus, the determination of the core sports and the composition of the Olympic programme are a complex matter and not a simple task,” said Mitchell.
President of the Egyptian Wrestling Federation (EWF) Hassan Al-Hadad was defiant. “This is not the end. It is only a recommendation.” Al-Hadad said there was “a kind of conspiracy to eliminate wrestling in order to add a new sport to the programme. There is no comparison between wrestling and any other sport.”
“The EWF has contacted the new president of FILA Nenad Lavoic and international wrestling federations worldwide declaring their rejection of the decision. All are united in fighting and saving wrestling. We are working with the FILA to come up with innovations regarding Greco-Roman styles and improving wrestlers’ performances,” said Al-Hadad.
“The worst case scenario, in case the EB does not choose wrestling and present a formal apology, is that many countries will boycott the 2020 Olympic Games. It will be a very big problem,” Al-Hadad warned.
“The decision is part of a process of renewing and renovating the programme for the Olympic Games. In the view of the EB, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what is wrong with wrestling, but of what is right with the 25 core sports”, explained Mitchell.
Now, wrestling must vie with seven other sports. The EB will choose from among eight short-listed sports, including wrestling (the others are baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu) for inclusion in 2020.
The eight sports are scheduled to make presentations to the EB at its meeting in St Petersburg, Russia, in May. The total number of sports shall not exceed 28.  
The last sports removed from the Olympics were baseball and softball, voted out by the IOC in 2005 and off the programme since the 2008 Beijing Games.
On wrestling’s chances, added Mitchell, “All eight sports will be presented to the EB in May prior to the vote. As the EB may choose one or more of the eight sports to recommend to the 125th IOC session for approval in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September, it is impossible to speculate on what the chances of any of the sports are”.
Egyptian world champion Mohamed Abdel-Fattah, known as Boogi, said the IOC excludes a sport for two reasons. “The popularity of the sport and corruption within sports itself. All forms of deception exist in the FILA -- bribery of coaches, referees and athletes.”
A FILA statement from the acting Serbian President Lalovic said, “FILA takes its responsibility very seriously on behalf of all the 180 affiliated national federations and all the wrestlers in the world. It understands the IOC recommendation and respects the process. As a sport, we are willing to undertake all the necessary steps for our sport to remain in the core programme of the Olympic Games.
“One thing is for certain: it is our responsibility alone to address the issues that led to this situation. We are listening to the IOC’s concerns and learning from their guidance. We must strive to improve our sport’s Olympic offering in order to retain our position on the Olympic programme and evolve with the times.”
Wrestling is one of the ancient and elemental Olympic sports. It was the second Olympic sport, first introduced to the ancient Olympic Games in 708 BC. Monuments to the Pharaohs found at Beni Hassan dating to around 2000 BC indicate a number of sports, including wrestling. Wrestling was especially well-developed and regulated in ancient Egypt. An earlier portrayal of wrestling figures was found in the tomb of Khnumhotep and Niankhnum in Saqqara dating to around 2400 BC. In Greece, wrestling was introduced formally in first Olympic Games 776 BC in Olympia.
The decision was a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Turkey. Wrestling is considered an ancestral sport in Turkey, since the Ottoman Empire. Turkey has won 58 out of its total 87 Olympic medals in wrestling -- 28 gold, 16 silver and 14 bronze medals.
At the London Olympic Games in 2012, Japan won six wrestling Olympic medals (four gold and two bronze) out of its total 38 medals.
In the 2012 Games, 29 wrestlers from 71 countries medaled in Olympic wrestling while only 26 countries participated in the modern pentathlon.
Three cities are bidding to host the 2020 Games: Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo. The IOC will elect the host city on 7 September 2013 at the 125th IOC session in Buenos Aires.
All national wrestling federations affiliated with the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) expressed their objection to the IOC EB decision, removing the yellow Olympic ring which stands for the wrestling mat. Nearly 200 international federations are members in FILA; 202 nations are members in the IOC.
At the Senior World Cup in Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling hosted by the Iranian Wrestling Federation in Tehran from 19-22 February, athletes held each other’s hands in a sign of solidarity and brotherhood. Even bitter rivals Iran and the US joined this symbolic action to show that the love for wrestling transcends all political tensions and cultural barriers.
Egypt has several wrestling highlights in the Olympic Games. In 1920 in Antwerp, Egypt competed with a single wrestler, Ahmed Rahmi, in Greco-Roman lightweight and the freestyle middleweight but Rahmi lost his only match in each competition. In 1924 in Paris, Rahmi participated in the lightweight class and Ibrahim Mustafa in the light heavyweight. Mustafa finished in fourth place.
In 1928 in Amsterdam, Egypt competed with five Greco-Roman wrestlers: Ibrahim Kamel in bantamweight, Ali Kamel in featherweight, Rahmi and Ibrahim Mustafa in light-heavyweight and Ibrahim Subah in heavyweight. Mustafa snatched a gold medal.
In 1948 in London, Egypt competed with 14 Greco-Roman wrestlers. Mahmoud Ali won a silver medal in the bantamweight and Ibrahim Orabi took a bronze in the light-heavyweight.
In 1952 in Helsinki, Egypt competed with 11 Greco-Roman wrestlers and one wrestler in the freestyle flyweight class. Abdel-Aaal Rashed won a bronze medal in the featherweight class.
In 1960 in Rome, Egypt competed with eight Greco-Roman wrestlers. Only Eid Osman won, a silver medal in the flyweight (-52kg) division.
In Athens 2004, Egypt competed with three Greco-Roman wrestlers. Karam Gaber won a gold medal in the men’s Greco-Roman 96kg category.
In London 2012, more than at any other Olympics, Egypt competed with 12 wrestlers (five freestyle and seven Greco-Roman wrestlers). Gaber won a silver medal in the men’s Greco-Roman 84kg category.

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