Wrestling looks to make Olympics comeback
Buenos Aires: Wrestling is the firm favourite sport to regain its place on the Olympic Games roster for the 2020 Summer Games when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members vote in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Wrestling, one of the few sports to have bridged the gap between the ancient and modern Olympics, are up against squash, bidding for the third time, and a joint bid of baseball/softball, who last appeared at the Olympics in 2008.
Wrestling has been through a mini revolution since the 15-person Executive Board (EB) of the IOC shocked many by voting it off at a meeting in February.
It sparked uproar, probably surprising several of the EB members, with even bitter political enemies such as Iran and the United States seeing their wrestlers join forces to plead for it to be restored.
Much of the credit for wrestling still having the chance of regaining its place lies with Serbian Nenad Lalovic, the man who was elected president of the federation after the previous incumbent was ejected following the EB decision.
Lalovic a genial larger than life character has engineered the reforms that have seen it become more TV friendly and also the bouts to reward aggressive wrestling rather than the passive style that may have won people medals before but was not sparkling entertainment.
Lalovic, more a yachtsman than a wrestler but whose son represented Serbia at wrestling, realises what is at stake for his sport in the vote.
"What I am hearing makes me optimistic but a vote is another matter," he said.
"We will be much more disappointed than them (squash and softball/baseball) if we go out.
"We will be in big, big trouble. Wrestling is not just a sport, it is a tradition in lots of countries.
"In some of those countries, the poorest ones, I fear there could be social problems," he added.
Squash has fought a 10 year battle -- in 2005 they topped the list to be part of the Games but failed because they didn`t have the required two thirds majority which has been replaced by a simple majority now.
The federation`s Indian president Narayana Ramachandran accepts that things maybe didn`t fall their way when wrestling was ejected -- modern pentathlon would have given them a stronger chance -- but insisted he hadn`t given up all hope.
"I am an eternal optimist, he said.
"Sport is sport, I`m not involved in the politics. We will put our best foot forward and show it in its best light. If we lose we will accept it with humility."
Baseball/softball have faced an uphill battle throughout but have fielded the person with the most name recognition among the three sports in federation vice-president Antonio Castro, son of longtime Cuban leader Fidel.
Antonio Castro, who ironically became an orthopaedic surgeon after his nascent baseball career was cut short by a knee injury, said it was crucial to the people of Cuba that they returned to the Games.
"Baseball in Cuba is the pinnacle of the the sporting pyramid, it is part of the social foundation with all the people playing as a team.
"For the social system sport is very important."