Monday,23 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)
Monday,23 October, 2017
Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Wrestling grapples back

The ancient sport remains in the Olympics progrmme

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Al-Ahram Weekly

There has been a remarkable turnaround for wrestling which was dropped from the Olympic programme by 15 IOC members of the Executive Board (EB) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, last February, Ghada Abdel-Kader reports. Wrestling, a sport with a 3,000 year history, and one the oldest sports in the history of the Olympic Games, was among the short-listed sports including baseball/softball and squash for possible inclusion as an additional sport for the 2020 and 2024 editions of the Games. 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. Wrestling was apparently ranked “low” in several technical criteria.
But in sports, never give up. During the IOC’s EB meeting at the 125th IOC session, wrestling regained its place in the Olympic Games of 2020 and 2024 after being voted in ahead of baseball/softball and squash. Wrestling received the IOC’s majority of votes in the first round. The results of the vote: wrestling 49 votes out of 95 votes. Baseball/softball took 24 votes and squash had only 22 votes.  
FILA (International Federation of Associated Wrestling) President Nenad Lalovic in the final presentation in front of IOC members said that FILA had solved all the criteria that came in the IOC report. In the last few months, he said wrestling succeeded in making major changes, including new rules and a better sports presentation to attract more spectators and a younger audience. In addition, FILA recently improved its governance by integrating more athletes and women into decision-making positions and by increasing the numbers of its commissions, as well as increasing punishments for anti-doping.
President of the Egyptian Olympic Committee (EOC) Khaled Zeineddin told Al-Ahram Weekly, “Egypt had no presence as a country in the IOC Executive Board meeting and annual general session of the IOC members in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 4-10 September 2013. There is no EOC representative. IOC member General Mounir Thabet is unable to travel. I went there as executive board member of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) not as the EOC president.
“We had a strong lobby consisting of president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) Nenad Lalovic, the EOC president, President of the American Olympic Committee Larry Probst, and Prince of Malaysia Tunku Imran. I have good relations with IOC members. Through my contacts and I helped in saving wrestling.”
Egyptian world champion Mohamed Abdel-Fattah, known as ‘Bogy’, said, “Due to mismanagement by the former Swiss president of the FILA and his administration, the whole FILA congress is full of corruption problems with athletes, bribery, and the entire process of arbitration is flawed. The result of this was the IOC making constant changes in the rules of the game to overcome problems which happened in matches. All of this has had a bad effect on wrestling. It loses its charm and excitement.”
Bogy added, “I think all what happened is in favour of wrestling to get rid of this corrupt organisation. Wrestling is more ancient than baseball/softball and squash. After modifications made to wrestling, it aims at increasing equality between men and women wrestlers. The number of men wrestlers in Greco roman and freestyle wrestling equals the number of women wrestlers in freestyle age categories and weight classes.”
About the reaction of wrestlers worldwide, Bogy said, “I noticed among my friends that there is a big exclamation mark in front of why wrestling was originally dropped from the Olympics. They were astonished that all this happened to an ancient sport like wrestling.”
Egyptian freestyle wrestler Mustafa Farhat, 96 kg, explains why wrestling should be in Olympic Games. “Wrestling is very popular in many countries worldwide, in Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. It is the No 1 sport in many countries like China. Also, America has a big presence.”
Farhat, who went to the Olympic Games in London 2012, added, “I was so delighted because I know the feeling of being amidst this big sport event. It’s a dream for every athlete. I wish to be there in the Olympic Games in Rio 2016.”
Freestyle 60kg wrestler Hassan Madani participated in the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008 and London 2012 where came in 8th place. “I can’t imagine the Olympic Games without wrestling. Wrestling is one of the most popular and oldest sports in ancient Greece. These old sports which were the basis for the Olympic Games, without them will be no Olympic Games or Olympic committee.”
From Madani’s point of view, sport plays a significant role in international relations. So, politics is not very far off from sport and can influence sport greatly. “In the Olympic Games, athletes are not competing against each other but countries are. Many public and political figures around the world intervened to stop wrestling from being dropped, headed by Russian President Vladimir Putin who had a great impact on this issue. Putin said that it would be ‘unjustified’ to remove traditional sports from the Olympics. Wrestling is one of Russia’s strongest Olympic events, and Russian sports officials were furious with the IOC executive board’s vote in February to drop the sport from the 2020 Games.
About the reasons why wrestling does not a big fan base, Madani added, “It lacks good administration. It should have new concepts for promoting, branding and marketing the athletes and the sport.  All the administrations of the national wrestling federation in countries should be changed because they are incapable of spreading the sport.”

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