Wrestling makes drastic changes to please IOC

MOSCOW Sat May 18, 2013 10:55pm IST

Iran's Hassan Rahimi (L) grapples with Obe Blanc of the U.S. during the Rumble on the Rails wrestling event held inside Grand Central Terminal in New York, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Iran's Hassan Rahimi (L) grapples with Obe Blanc of the U.S. during the Rumble on the Rails wrestling event held inside Grand Central Terminal in New York, May 15, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Wrestling has introduced drastic changes designed to keep the ancient sport in the Olympic programme, the newly-elected president of the world governing body (FILA) said on Saturday.

More categories for women, eliminating draws and cutting down the number of competitors are just some of the initiatives being introduced as wrestling battles to salvage its Olympic status after the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s executive board made a surprise recommendation to drop it from the 2020 Games programme.

"Today we made decisions needed for our struggle to remain in the Olympic movement," Serbian Nenad Lalovic told a news conference shortly after winning overwhelming majority votes to lead the sport at FILA's extraordinary congress in Moscow.

The sport, which featured in the first modern Olympics in 1896 and every Games since apart from 1900, has joined seven other candidates battling for one spot in a revamped programme.

Wrestlers were told to bring changes to their sport, adapt to a new environment and make it more suitable for television audience if they wanted to remain in the Olympics.

"They (IOC) gave us a yellow card, so we had to change. And we did," Lalovic said. "The new rules had been adapted. Also we gave more equality to women in our sport. The most important thing is the changes in our constitution and the new rules."

EQUALLY DIVIDED

Wrestling, which had 18 medals - seven in both freestyle and Greco-Roman and four for women - contested at last year's London Olympics, has now proposed to add more weight classes for women.

"We want to spread medals equally among freestyle, Greco-Roman and women wrestlers - by six, six and six," Lalovic said.

"We also like to see only one bronze awarded in each weight class instead of two as was the case until now.

"We also have proposed to limit the number of athletes in each category by 16, similar to what boxing has and cut the number of referees in half, therefore we'll have less people at the Olympics, which is what the IOC wants," he added.

"As for the new rules, there will be no draws, no push-outs. The rules will be more understanding for spectators."

FILA said the new rules will take effect immediately.

The IOC executive board meets in St Petersburg later this month to determine which of the eight sports will go forward to the vote at the full IOC session in Buenos Aires in September.

"Our next major step is to make a good presentation for the IOC," Lalovic, who last month met Russian President Vladimir Putin, seeking his support for wrestling.

"We plan to invite several great champions, current and former, as well as top names from other sports and leading politicians to St Petersburg so they could give us their support."

Asked if he would name a few, Lalovic smiled: "Well, this is our big secret." (Reporting by Gennady Fyodorov, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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