Wrestling rule changes please IOC, but no Olympic guarantees
Crucial IOC meeting next week in Russia
Wrestling's governing body has "reacted well" and made the necessary changes to give the sport a chance of saving its place in the Olympics, IOC President Jacques Rogge said.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Rogge said FILA has tackled the issues that led the IOC executive board in February to remove wrestling from the list of core sports for the 2020 Games.
"I think they had the good answer and the good reaction," he said. "They obviously were taken a bit by a surprise by the fact they could leave the core group."
Rogge praised the measures approved by FILA at its congress in Moscow last weekend, including rule changes to make matches more compelling and the inclusion of women and athletes in decision-making positions.
Wrestling is now competing with seven other sports for a single spot on the 2020 program. The IOC board meets in St. Petersburg, Russia, next week and will recommend one sport or a shortlist of sports for a vote by the full IOC in September.
"The federation definitely understood the reasons why they were ousted, and they reacted what they normally should have done," Rogge said. "They did a good job on that, so we'll see what the judgment is of the executive board on all of the eight sports but definitely I would say that wrestling has reacted well.
"That does not guarantee a spot in the shortlist or the single presentation. It was at least the minimum they could do and they did it. They have addressed the shortcomings. That was a good reaction."'
Wrestling, which dates back to the ancient Olympics, remains on the sports lineup for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
New FILA President Nenad Lalovic believes the sport has done what it takes to return to the fold.
"Yes I do think so," he told the AP on Thursday. "But there is no guarantee because the other competitors are strong. We did what we could in such a short time. I'm not sure if it's enough but we did all that's possible. We did all that we could."
The new sports seeking inclusion in 2020 are squash, wakeboarding, karate, wushu, roller sports and a combined baseball-softball bid. They will all make presentations to the IOC board next Wednesday in St. Petersburg.
"Then we'll have a debate whether the executive board will present one single sport to the session or whether the executive board would prefer to present a shortlist to the IOC session," Rogge said.
The board members will vote by secret ballot on which sport or sports to submit to the IOC assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sept. 8.
There has been widespread speculation in Olympic circles that the board will recommend a list of three or four sports, including wrestling.
"My position is very clear," Rogge said. "Everything will happen on merit and respecting the rights of the federations."
FILA on Thursday announced the names of the five panelists who will make the presentation to the IOC: Lalovic; Jim Scherr, a former wrestler and ex-CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee; Canadian freestyle wrestler Carol Huynh, gold medallist at the 2008 Beijing Games and bronze winner at the 2012 London Olympics; Lise Legrand, vice-president of the French wrestling federation and 2004 bronze medallist ; and Daniel Igali, a Nigerian-born Canadian gold medallist in Sydney in 2000.
"These five panelists are representative of the passion, dedication and diversity of wrestling's athletes and fans around the world," Lalovic said.
The IOC decision in February to drop wrestling led to the resignation of FILA president Raphael Martinetti. Lalovic, who took over in an interim capacity, was elected fulltime president at last Saturday's congress in Moscow.
Lalovic "understood there were shortcomings both in governance but also in presentation and appeal of the sport in terms of clarity of the rules of competition and a whole range of issues that they had to change," Rogge said.
Under changes approved in Moscow, matches will consist of two 3-minute sessions instead of three 2-minute periods, and scoring will be cumulative instead of the previous two-out-of-three system. FILA also changed its constitution to include a female vice-president.
"They will have an athletes' commission they did not have," Rogge said. "They will have women on board the executive board which they did not have. They will change the length of bouts to make it more clear for the public on the counting of the points. There are also a lot of technical rules that are going to be associated."