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Olympics: Jacques Rogge to meet with wrestling leader (+video)

By Stephen Wilson

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13 2013 4:03 p.m. MST

IOC drops wrestling from 2020 Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Facing a wave of criticism from around the world, IOC President Jacques Rogge will meet with the head of wrestling's governing body to discuss ways the sport can fight to save its place in the Olympics.

The IOC executive board dropped wrestling from the program of the 2020 Games on Tuesday, a decision which brought a sharp backlash from wrestling organizations and national Olympic bodies around the world — including the United States, Russia and Iran.

The move must still be ratified by the full International Olympic Committee in September, giving wrestling time to try to overturn a decision against a sport which dates back to the ancient Olympics and has been featured since the inaugural modern games in 1896.

Rogge said Wednesday he has been contacted by Raphael Martinetti, the Swiss president of international wrestling federation FILA, and was encouraged by the sport's resolve to make changes and fight for its place.

"We agreed we would meet at the first opportunity to have discussions," Rogge said at a news conference at the close of a two-day board meeting. "I should say FILA reacted well to this disheartening news for them.

"They vowed to adapt the sport and vowed to fight to be eventually included in the 2020 slot."

Wrestling, which remains on the program for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, still has a chance to stay on the list for 2020 — if it manages to respond decisively to the wakeup call and convince the IOC to reverse course.

"This is not the end of the day. The door is not closed," IOC Vice President Thomas Bach of Germany said. "It's good to see the reaction of FILA to say, 'OK we have understood, we have to do something and we will present a plan for the future of wrestling.' That is the right attitude."

Wrestling now joins seven other sports vying for one opening on the 2020 program: a combined bid from baseball and softball, karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the martial art of wushu.

The IOC executive board will meet in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which sport or sports to propose for 2020 inclusion. The final vote will be made at the IOC general assembly in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"The vote of yesterday is not an elimination of wrestling from the Olympic Games," Rogge said. "Wrestling will participate in the games in Rio de Janeiro. To the athletes who train now, I say, 'Continue training for your participation in Rio. Your federation is working for the inclusion in the 2020 Games.'"

Rogge was asked whether Tuesday's decision marked an end to wrestling's Olympic hopes.

"I cannot look into a crystal ball into the future," he said. "We have established a fair process by which the sport that would not be included in the core has a chance to compete with the seven other sports for the slot on the 2020 Games."

Rogge said he was fully aware of the strength of criticism leveled at the IOC for the move.

"We knew even before the decision was taken whatever sport would not be included in the core program would lead to criticism from the supporters of that sport," he said.

Still, complaints continued to pour in Wednesday from different parts of the world, uniting the U.S. and Iran on an issue in ways never imagined in diplomatic circles. The U.S. and Russia were also unlikely allies in the save-wrestling campaign.

Alexander Zhukov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, said he would write to Rogge and "use all of our strength to persuade the IOC not to exclude wrestling from the Olympic program."

Wrestling has been one of Russia's strongest sports: Soviet and Russian wrestlers have won 77 gold medals.

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