We’ve seen the photos of unity, and heard the rhetoric of what wrestling needs to change.
The actions being taken domestically and globally are encouraging. Ideally, the passion and energy being spent to adapt and evolve the sport will help wrestling maintain its marquee event.
Recently, subtle and some not-so subtle gestures that provide hope that the worldwide wrestling community is making the appropriate steps to prove to the International Olympic Committee that it deserves to remain one of its core sports and shouldn’t be cut from the Olympics, beginning in 2020. The IOC executive board recommended in February that wrestling be dropped after the 2016 in Brazil.
Wrestling is one of seven sports being considered for one spot in the 28-sport programme. The field will be narrowed to three in May with a final vote at a meeting in September.
FILA, the international wrestling federation, took swift action last month after the first announcement, leading to the resignation of former President Raphael Martinetti about four days after the IOC suggestion. Acting FILA President Nenad Lalovic has already reached out, and will meet with IOC President Dr. Jacques Rogge on Thursday.
A press conference is planned, following the meeting, according to USA Wrestling. The transparency and communication that this demonstrates is likely an improvement for FILA leadership. World Champion and Olympic medalist Terry Brands, and others, have said the international wrestling community will have to approach the IOC with “hat in hand” and I think this is a strong example of it. You can look at it as finding out what hoops you have to jump through or you can view it simply as doing what is necessary to make the sport viable on the worldwide stage.
“Although the IOC’s decision was a clear disappointment to the wrestling world, we very much understand it is our responsibility to get our house in order,” Lalovic said in the USA Wrestling article, adding, “we in no way blame the IOC for our predicament and will view its decision as an opportunity to improve our sport and to help strengthen the Olympic Movement.”
In a more subtle, yet meaningful, move, Japanese wrestlers and the leader of the country’s wrestling federation, were among the group that met IOC members on the third day of their four-day inspection of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. A fine move indeed.
Tomiaki Fukuda, the Japanese Wrestling Federation President and deputy head of Tokyo’s Olympic bid committee, helped lead a tour of the Tokyo Big Sight, near Tokyo Bay, which would house the fencing, Tae Kwon Do and wrestling competitions. Wrestling was represented without a high-pressure push. Fukuda openly admitted that his dual role left him in a predicament, in the report by Agence France Presse posted at www.globalpost.com.
“I am in a very, very delicate position now in front of you, IOC members,” he told the group at an arena planned as the venue for wrestling, taekwondo and fencing if Tokyo wins the 2020 Games.
“Therefore I can only say thank you very much” for coming, said Fukuda, also a vice president of the world wrestling governing body FILA.
They also had a group of 300 local youth wrestlers, who stood near the venue, holding a banner that simply read “wrestling.” A nice way to show the hopes of another generation depend on their decision.
Probably the best news surrounding wrestling’s campaign is the overall support from the Association of National Olympic Committees. According to the Australian Associated Press, ANOC’s Sheik Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah said the sport has the “unanimous support” from the ANOC executive council. He also said ANOC will work closely with FILA, leading up to the IOC’s vote in September.
“We are very keen to maintain wrestling in the sport program,” Al Sabah said.
One would think the ANOC would have some influence with the IOC, but in this game the rules can be made up as they go and the only one who has to know them are part of the IOC.
Locally, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad continues his support for the cause. Tuesday, he released a letter signed and backed by 33 other governors that was sent to Rogge, expressing their concern about the possible elimination of wrestling from the Olympic Games. I’m not savvy on politics, but these are leaders whose state export and import goods to various nations throughout the world. These products can be possible sponsors in the Games. I would think the letter could be a factor when added to the rest of the support.
Below is the letter, including the governors, who signed it.
Gov. Branstad brings together 33 other governors in bipartisan effort to keep wrestling in Olympics
(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today released a letter, co-signed by a bipartisan group of 33 governors, calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to keep wrestling an Olympic sport. After asking Iowa’s congressional delegation to co-sign a letter to the Olympic committee, Branstad began focusing on bringing together governors in an effort to keep the great sport in the Olympics.
The letter, sent to International Olympic Committee Executive Board President Dr. Jacques Rogge, urges the committee to reconsider their recent decision to remove wrestling as an Olympic sport, effective in 2020.
“The Olympic Games are meant to provide a venue for people from all nations to overcome differences and forge lasting relationships and wrestling has contributed to these Olympic attributes,” the governors write. “We believe that renewing or renovating the Olympics should respect key Olympic traditions. We would also encourage a transparent voting system for future votes on which sports should be included as part of the Olympic Games. As public servants, we hold transparency as a sacred principle and we would encourage the IOC to abide by that same principle.”
The following is the full text of the letter, including the bipartisan list of governors who joined Gov. Branstad in signing on to the letter:
March 5, 2013
Dr. Jacques Rogge
President, International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board
Château de Vidy
Case Postale 356 1001
Dear President Rogge:
As governors of states with rich wrestling traditions, we write to express our concerns regarding the recent decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to remove wrestling as an Olympic sport in the 2020 Olympic Games. We strongly urge the IOC to reconsider its position and vote to extend wrestling’s long legacy within the Olympic Games.
Wrestling was a key sport in ancient civilization and its inclusion in the Olympics has continued to enrich the ongoing Olympic tradition. Early Olympic organizers recognized wrestling’s unique and global importance by including the sport in the 1896 Olympic Games held in Athens. Wrestling has been a key part of the Olympic movement ever since.
The same spirit of competition that drove ancient wrestlers has transcended generations, and our states are the beneficiaries of this spirit. Wrestling accelerates character building. At its core, wrestling is an instinct and embodies the human qualities of hard work, discipline, and perseverance. Dan Gable, an Olympic gold medalist and former US Olympic wrestling coach, succinctly summarized wrestling’s character building characteristics when he stated, “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”
Wrestling’s positive impact goes beyond our states and the United States of America. Forms of wrestling have been important parts of cultures worldwide, including China, Ukraine, Japan, Russia, Turkey, and many other countries. Soviet and Russian wrestlers have won 77 gold medals at past Olympic Games. Moreover, wrestling federations exist in approximately 180 countries and the recent London Olympic Games had wrestlers from over 70 countries.
The Olympic Games are meant to provide a venue for people from all nations to overcome differences and forge lasting relationships and wrestling has contributed to these Olympic attributes. We believe that renewing or renovating the Olympics should respect key Olympic traditions. We would also encourage a transparent voting system for future votes on which sports should be included as part of the Olympic Games. As public servants, we hold transparency as a sacred principle and we would encourage the IOC to abide by that same principle.
We encourage your prompt reconsideration of your decision regarding wrestling. We hope that wrestling will continue to be an important part of the Olympic tradition.
Terry E. Branstad
Governor of Iowa
Governor of Alabama
Governor of Alaska
Governor of Arkansas
Governor of Colorado
Dannel P. Malloy
Governor of Connecticut
Governor of Delaware
Governor of Georgia
Governor of Illinois
Governor of Kansas
Governor of Louisiana
Governor of Maine
Governor of Maryland
Governor of Michigan
Governor of Minnesota
Governor of Montana
Governor of Nebraska
Governor of Nevada
Governor of New Hampshire
Governor of New Jersey
Governor of North Carolina
Governor of Ohio
Governor of Oklahoma
John Kitzhaber, M.D.
Governor of Oregon
Governor of Pennsylvania
Alejandro García Padilla
Governor of Puerto Rico
Governor of Rhode Island
Governor of South Dakota
Governor of Tennessee
Governor of Utah
Governor of Vermont
Governor of Wisconsin
Governor of Wyoming
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