IOC Plays Down Wrestling's Exit After Global Uproar; Rogge To Meet With FILA Boss
Even though the recommendation to drop wrestling from the Olympics has "angered athletes, officials and fans around the world," the IOC "played down the finality of its decision," according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. The IOC's 15-member exec board voted on Tuesday to recommend that the sport be dropped from the 2020 Olympic program. The vote "prompted an instant wave of protest and anger" from the sport's global community. The sport's int'l federation, FILA, said that the decision was an "aberration." Petitions were launched in the U.S. White House, and online wrestling support groups signed up "thousands of supporters." IOC Finance Commission Chair Richard Carrion said, "It was always going to be a painful decision. No matter what we do, it will be criticized by someone" (REUTERS, 2/13). REUTERS' Sudipto Ganguly also reported India's government "will seek the support of other countries where wrestling is popular" to help the sport remain an Olympic discipline. The Indian government said that it would "raise the issue with the IOC and hoped the sport could find its way back as a core Olympic discipline" (REUTERS, 2/13).
MANY COUNTRIES AFFECTED: The PTI reported India's ministry of youth affairs in sports said that "wrestling is a popular sport not only in India but also in many other countries such as Russia, Iran, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Japan and China." The ministry said, "The exclusion of the discipline from the Olympics will demoralize the sports persons and will deeply affect the sustenance of the game in the future" (PTI, 2/13). The AFP reported Turkish wrestling federation President Hamza Yerlikaya called the decision "unfair" and a "mistake" that they would seek to overturn. Yerlikaya said, "To have the 2020 Olympics in Istanbul without wrestling is unthinkable. We won't allow it." An online petition at change.org entitled "The International Olympic Committee: Save Wrestling as an Olympic sport #SaveOlympicWrestling" has also been mounted, urging the U.S. Senate to "take up the matter." By late afternoon on Wednesday, it had more than 21,000 signatures (AFP, 2/13). The AFP also reported Japan "reacted with dismay." Japan wrestler Saori Yoshida, who won a record 13-straight Olympic and World Championship Gold Medals over 10 years, said, "I am so devastated that I don't know what to do." Local media dubbed the IOC decision a "crisis for Japan's strong suit" (AFP, 2/13).
OTHER SPORTS BENEFIT: In Seoul, Moon Gwang-lip reported World Taekwondo Federation President Choue Chung-won welcomed the IOC’s decision to "keep taekwondo kicking." In a statement, Choue said, "While the process is not complete, the global taekwondo family should be proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past four years and encouraged that we are continuing to move in the right direction with our sport." Meanwhile, the Korea Wrestling Federation "is in shock." The organization declined an immediate comment on the IOC decision, saying that it would "await a response" from FILA. A federation official said, "It just came out of nowhere, so we have little to say" (KOREA JOONGANG DAILY, 2/14). Also in Seoul, Chun Sung-woo reported the retention of taekwondo as an Olympic sport "may have been driven by its global governing body’s efforts to reform and spread the Korean martial art." A World Taekwondo Federation official said, "Our reform efforts to improve the operation of matches seem to have been appreciated at the meeting" (KOREA HERALD, 2/13).
NOT EVERYONE UPSET: In Sydney, Richard Hinds opined beginning in '20, we will be "deprived of the quadrennial pleasure of watching large, perspirant Eastern Europeans in body-hugging leotards folding each other into shapes unimagined by the finest exponents of origami." Nothing is more thrilling than "a follicularly enriched Bulgarian and a German with a constipated grimace grappling to the strains of Roy and HG's Barry White CD." Doing "little to improve the stereotypical view of its combatants," the peak wrestling body reportedly failed to lobby the IOC's 15-member exec board before the vote, "believing it was safe." And anyone who has "worked on host city bid well knows, failing to lobby an IOC committee is like forgetting to feed your pet crocodile" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/13).
ROGGE TO FIGHT: The AP's Stephen Wilson reported IOC President Jacques Rogge said that he will "meet with the head of wrestling's governing body to discuss ways the sport can fight to save its place" in the 2020 Olympics after the IOC voted to drop the sport. Rogge added that he has been "contacted by" FILA President Raphael Martinetti. Rogge: "We agreed we would meet at the first opportunity to have discussions." He added that he was "encouraged that FILA had 'vowed to adapt the sport and vowed to fight to be eventually included in the 2020 slot'" (AP, 2/13).