Wrestling body to meet in May to discuss rule changes for Olympic bid
Sport on the chopping block for 2020 Games
Desperate to modernize to keep its place in the Olympics, wrestling is considering changes to one of its most traditional symbols: the simple singlet.
The acting head of wrestling's governing body said Friday the federation is negotiating with manufacturers to produce a new singlet that will reduce sweat and look different for Greco-Roman and freestyle competitors.
It's a sign of how far the sport is ready to go to regain its spot on the Olympic program after being cut from the 2020 Games last month by the IOC executive board.
"I want to change the singlets to modernize them," acting FILA president Nenad Lalovic told The Associated Press. "Sweat is really a problem for the wrestlers. By the end of the match they cannot make grabs, especially for the Greco-Roman.
"Also that will help to distinguish immediately the Greco-Roman wrestler from the freestyle wrestler."
Currently, Olympic wrestlers in both disciplines wear either red or blue one-piece singlets.
Lalovic said FILA is also working on proposals to include women and active athletes on its decision-making body and make changes to the competition format and look of the venue to improve the experience for spectators.
"We want to find something that will make our sport much more watchable and understandable," Lalovic said. "We want spectators who come to the wrestling hall for the first time to know the rules by the end of the day."
The changes, which would go into effect in 2014, will come up for approval at an extraordinary FILA congress in Moscow on May 18 — just 10 days before the IOC executive board meets in St. Petersburg, Russia, to discuss the program for the 2020 Games.
Lalovic said he will run for the FILA presidency at the Moscow meeting.
"We have to make changes to modernize our sport," the Serbian official said in a telephone interview after chairing a FILA meeting in Vevey, Switzerland. "We have to show that something has changed and that we can implement it."
As part of the campaign, FILA is planning a "World Wrestling Day" to be held on May 24 with national bodies organizing wrestling exhibitions and other events to promote the sport.
FILA had originally planned to hold the congress in Turkey, but that was deemed to be a possible conflict of interest because Istanbul is bidding for the 2020 Olympics.
"We have to be impartial," Lalovic said.
Russia, a traditional wrestling powerhouse and homeland of the great Alexander Karelin, has been among the most active countries in fighting for the sport's Olympic future. Lalovic said the Russian government will help organize and finance the congress.
Lalovic took over FILA on an interim basis after Raphael Martinetti resigned as president within days of the IOC decision to remove wrestling after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Lalovic said he spoke to Martinetti this week and the Swiss official told him he would not be a candidate for president in Moscow. Lalovic said he does not know if he will face any challengers or be unopposed to finish the presidential mandate until 2014.
The Moscow meeting will be crucial ahead of the May 29-31 IOC meeting in St. Petersburg, where the board will hear presentations from wrestling and seven other sports competing for one spot on the 2020 program.
The others vying for inclusion are a combined baseball-softball bid, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, and the martial arts of karate and wushu.
The board could select a short list of three sports to submit to the full IOC assembly, which will make the final decision at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September.
Lalovic met with federation leaders a day after holding talks with IOC President Jacques Rogge, who told him the sport will have to earn its place on the program.
"The other competitors started two years ago," Lalovic said. "We have to run fast and act fast. They have had much more time to prepare. But I think we have stronger arguments and I believe we will be ready to make our case."