SBD/September 9, 2013/Olympics

Wrestling Applauded For Reforms That Led To Olympic Reinstatement For '20, '24 Games

Lalovic (l) assured the IOC that his organization will continue to modernize
FILA President Nenad Lalovic said that wrestling officials yesterday "jumped with joy, and at least one shed tears" when IOC President Jacques Rogge announced that wrestling had been selected to return to the '20 and '24 Summer Games, according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. Lalovic said in thanking IOC voters, "I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic movement that we can be." Yesterday's vote "welcoming wrestling back into the Olympic fold represented an endorsement" of officials' initiatives to modernize and improve the sport, "much like a parent releasing a naughty child from a timeout." But the vote "came as a disappointment to supporters of squash and the baseball-softball effort." Former U.S. softball player Jennie Finch wrote on her Twitter account, "We will keep fighting, keep playing, keep supporting, keep growing & keep DREAMING & BELIEVING!" U.S. Squash CEO Kevin Klipstein said that the sport failing to make the Olympics was "sure to disappoint its 15 million to 20 million participants worldwide." Klipstein said that it was "'a head-scratcher' that the IOC’s process these last months had not resulted in any genuine 'addition' to the 2020 Olympics but rather a restoration of a sport." Canada IOC member Dick Pound "raised" that point yesterday as well (WASHINGTON POST, 9/9). FILA VP Stan Dziedzic said that the organization had "spent almost" $3M on its campaign to restore wrestling to the Olympics in the last seven months. He added that "about $8 million total was spent" by FILA, USA Wrestling and other federations. USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside notes "in contrast, the other sports in the running had budgets that were substantially smaller." Officials said that squash "spent less than" $1M, and baseball/softball spent "at least" $1M (USA TODAY, 9/9).

IN THE NICK OF TIME: In N.Y., Jere Longman notes wrestling "changed its rules, created more weight classes for women and easily prevailed over squash and a combined bid by baseball and softball." The sport had been "chastened by calls to modernize its leadership and energize its matches." Two Olympic weight classes "were dropped for men and two were added for women." Beginning with the '16 Rio Games, there will be "six classes for men and women in freestyle wrestling and six for men in Greco-Roman wrestling." FILA officials said that they were "amenable to women participating in Greco-Roman wrestling in the future if there was sufficient interest." Former Russia wrestler Aleksandr Karelin said that wrestlers also will have "more control in determining the outcome of matches." Former USOC CEO Jim Scherr said that the "continuation of wrestling in the Olympics was 'critically important' to the health of the sport at the grass-roots level" in the U.S. (N.Y. TIMES, 9/9).

BELLS AND WHISTLES
: In Iowa, Bryce Miller writes, "Wrestling needs to be applauded for quickly making rules more understandable and creating incentives that invite more offensive action." Creating a “6-6-6” system of weight classes, with six each for men’s and women’s freestyle, and Greco-Roman, "increased opportunities for women and showed an immediate commitment to the type of gender parity the IOC craves." Miller: "Undoubtedly, creative thinking about lighting, music and other elements that amplify excitement for other sports will grow audiences as well" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 9/9). USA TODAY's Whiteside writes wrestling is "thinking big and bold when it comes to showmanship," and "staged weigh-ins, walk-out music, lighting, visual effects and video screen displays are being discussed." FILA officials "have had meetings with entertainment and broadcasting experts as well as potential sponsors to increase the sport's appeal." Though wrestling has "consulted with MMA execs, don't expect wrestling to bring that sport into its fold." Dziedzic said that UFC stars "frequently come out of college wrestling and there is a good relationship between the groups, but the sports are too different" (USA TODAY, 9/9).

STILL HOPE: In Chicago, Philip Hersh writes baseball/softball and squash "may not be dead yet." One or both "could be included" in the '20 Tokyo Games. There already are "proposals to cut events from some sports on the Summer Games program, reducing the number of athletes -- capped at 10,500 -- and making room for a new sport" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/9).

TAKEDOWN DEFENSE: In Oklahoma City, John Helsley writes wrestling's leaders and "their passionate efforts saved wrestling's place in the Games, if not its future." Oklahoma State Univ. wrestling coach John Smith said, "The message that was sent down today from the IOC was since wrestling has been in the ancient Games, as well as the modern Games, we shouldn't be trailing, we're expected to be leading" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/9). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes the IOC "made the right decision." Hamilton: "We should savor it -- it happens with even less frequency than the Olympics themselves" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/9).
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