By Bob Condron, FILA Press Officer
FILA releases its top news stories of 2013 for the Olympic Sport of Wrestling
Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland (Dec. 31)—The sport of Wrestling rode a roller coaster of emotions in 2013 ranging from disappointment to joy, rejection to acceptance and non-Olympic status to Olympic sport once again.
The year after London was a big adrenaline rush for a sport that may be the world’s oldest. But, the sport changed because of it.
The year started in Lausanne, Switzerland, with a IOC Executive Board vote on February 12 that dropped Wrestling from a core sport in the Olympic program. Wrestling would have no Olympic status past 2016, breaking a legacy that dated back 2,700 years.
That February day ignited a passionate defense of the sport’s worth to the movement. And, it culminated on September 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when the full IOC membership welcomed the sport back to the program with a first-round vote that left no doubt that Wrestling belonged in the Olympic Games.
But, it didn’t come easy. The sport had to grow, to learn and to listen. The rules were tweaked to make wrestling more active, more understandable and to reward the aggressive wrestlers.
Athletes were given a greater voice in the running of FILA. Women were included in both organizational leadership and additional weight classes for the Olympics.
A new president breathed life into the international federation and made friends with the IOC, the fans, media…and anyone else who witnessed the seven-month spectacle of rebirth.
Nenad Lalovic, a Serbian businessman, jumped into the battle four days after the IOC left wrestling on the outside looking in. He put all of his passion into the project and willed FILA to battle back…with a better game.
And, much like wrestlers have done for thousands of years, Wrestling got back up and fought…for its future. And its life.
The Top News stories in 2013 were mainly focused on this journey back to the Olympic Games. For a look at this journey, here’s a chronological glance back at the year for the oldest…and youngest…Olympic sport.
Wrestling Dropped from Olympic Programme
In a move that astonished the sporting world, the IOC’s Executive Board excluded the sport of wrestling in its Top 25 core Olympic sports, leaving the sport that help start the Olympic Games almost 3,000 years ago left out of the Olympic Program beginning in 2020.
Martinetti Resigns, Lalovic Named Acting President
In an extraordinary meeting of the FILA Bureau in Phuket, Thailand, Raphael Martinetti resigned as president of FILA in the wake of the IOC Executive Board’s decision to drop the sport from the core program of the Olympic Games. Martinetti’s resignation came after a 50-50% split vote of the Bureau members. The Bureau nominated Nenad Lalovic from Serbia as acting President.
Lalovic Speaks Out, Save Olympic Wrestling Begins
President Lalovic makes his first comment on the Olympic situation: “ FILA takes its responsibility very seriously on behalf of all the 177 affiliated National Federations and all the wrestlers in the world. We understand the IOC recommendation and respect the process. We are willing to undertake all the necessary steps for our sport to remain on the core program of the Olympic Games.
“The world of wrestling is understandably disappointed by the IOC Executive Board’s recommendation to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympic Games program. We see this as an opportunity which could be a positive turning point for our sport. One thing is for certain: it is our responsibility alone to address the issues that led to this situation. We are listening to the IOC’s concerns and learning from their guidance. We must strive to improve our sport’s Olympic offering in order to retain our position on the Olympic program and evolve with the times.
On behalf of FILA and the entire wrestling community, we thank Mr. Raphaël Martinetti for his huge contribution and his lifelong service to the sport.”
CPOW formed to Fight for Wrestling in the Olympics
The Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) was developed by USA Wrestling, to insure that wrestling remains as a core sport of the Olympic Games. CPOW features many highly-respected leaders within the American wrestling, chaired by Bill Scherr of Glenview, Ill., a World champion and Olympic medalist in freestyle wrestling and a leader in the Olympic family.
Wrestlers Unite in Tehran, the Battle Begins
Nine days after the IOC’s decision, the Senior World Cup in Greco-Roman and Freestyle Wrestling was held in Tehran, Iran. It became one of the most passionate statements in the world on the sport being dropped from the Olympic Games. The top 10 countries in the world stood hand in hand on the mat to join together to begin the fight. Banners stretched across the mat in English and Farsi with the words, “Olympics Without Wrestling? Never, never…” as the president of Iran stood with the wrestlers to protest the decision.
Lalovic Begins IOC Repair
Acting FILA President Nenad Lalovic met with IOC-Vice President and German Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in Frankfurt, Germany. Mr. Bach advised FILA about potential measures to develop wrestling and about the presentation of FILA to the IOC Executive Board in May. He stressed the fairness of competition rules, the participation of athletes in the FILA decision-making process and the necessity of a global development program for wrestling as well as the promotion of women.
Mr. Lalovic informed Mr. Bach about the many FILA measures which he has already initiated in this respect including the implementation of rules concerning good governance within FILA.
Mr. Bach congratulated Mr. Lalovic and FILA: “The plans to develop wrestling better, to make it more attractive for youth world-wide and globally more popular, together with the application of the IOC principles of good governance are the right approach.”
FILA Goes to the IOC, Meets with President Rogge
Acting President Lalovic met with IOC President Jacque Rogge in Lausanne in an important discussion about FILA’s effort to remain as a core sport on the Olympic Program. “The meeting was very cordial and helpful”, said Acting President Lalovic, “our objective was to listen and learn from the discussion with President Rogge and I am very pleased with the result." He added, "Every sport, including wrestling, has to earn its place on the Olympic program. We know this will take hard work and are ready for it. Our goal is to make a great sport better and to be stronger partners in the Olympic Family." During the meeting, Acting President Lalovic outlined the initial steps that FILA is taking to address the concerns expressed by the IOC Executive Board in its February 12 decision to recommend wrestling’s removal as a core sport on the core Olympic Program. “FILA has already begun a number of innovative initiatives to modernize the governance, presentation and promotion of our sport,” he added. “The IOC’s process has given wrestling a golden opportunity, for which we are very grateful, to improve our sport at every level and to help strengthen the Olympic Movement.”
World Wrestling Month Set for May
FILA announced that May has been designated as World Wrestling Month and the 177 countries that are members of the organization will feature activities which promote the sport of wrestling and its campaign to remain in the Olympic Games.
“World Wrestling Month will feature a variety of activities for our athletes and national federations,” said FILA’s Acting President Nenad Lalovic. He added, “The month will celebrate our storied past as well as our strong future. Many of the countries around the world will be announcing their celebrations and plans in the coming weeks. ”
Russia Launches “Wrestling! To be continued…”
The Russian leg of the global campaign for World Wrestling Month, entitled "Wrestling! To be continued ... " was launched on April 6 in four cities: Moscow, Kaliningrad, Cheboksary and Kyzyl.
As part of FILA’s “Save Olympic Wrestling” campaign that embraced the world in a matter of days, legendary athletes, Russian politicians and cultural figures backed the sport to stay on the Olympic program. The campaign was supported by President of Wrestling Federation of Russia Mikhail Mamiashvili and Head of FILA’s anti-crisis working group George Brusov.
In Kyzyl, the hero of the recent European Championships Opan Sat, won the tournament that started the Russian campaign. The wrestler competed in a singlet with the label "Save Olympic Wrestling."
"Wrestling made me an athlete, an individual, set me in life, helped find friends, taught good things,” he said about the sport. “And we just have to do everything we can to keep it Olympic !”
FILA Begins World Rankings for Wrestling
As part of World Wrestling Month FILA launches World Rankings in three disciplines: Greco-Roman, Men’s Freestyle and Women’s Freestyle. It’s the first time in FILA’s history to rank the top 15 wrestlers in each discipline on a monthly basis.
Russia, Iran, USA Wrestlers Rumble on the Rails, New York City Style
Russia, Iran and the United States, three countries that don’t always see eye-to-eye with each other, came to New York City united and determined to prove to the world that Wrestling belongs in the Olympics. The three competed in the “Rumble on the Rails” in world-famous Grand Central Terminal and were part of a series of international events celebrating the designation of May as World Wrestling Month.
FILA Addresses United Nations
While in New York to attend the “Rumble of the Rails”, President Lalovic attended a press conference at the United Nations where each team’s athletes weighed-in and were introduced to the media. During President Lalovic’s opening remarks at the event he noted that “We are dedicated to reforming our sport and making FILA a more pro-active and responsible organization. We will do everything we can to address the IOC’s concerns and ensure that wrestling remains a part of the Olympic Games.”
The Changes Begin in Moscow
At a specially-called Extraordinary Congress in Moscow, the changes began for FILA. 177national federations were invited to the Russian capital city to make these changes. Lalovic was elected as the seventh president of FILA, rule changes were approved by the FILA Congress that made the sport more active and appealing, athletes and women were given greater roles in the organization and constitutional changes were made. FILA’s promise to the IOC had begun.
FILA Names Presentation Team for IOC Meeting
FILA announced the names of the five panelists that will participate in its presentation to the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Executive Board in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The panelists for the presentation are FILA President Nenad Lalovic, who is leading the campaign to “Save Olympic Wrestling”; Carol Huynh, a Canadian wrestler who won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and a bronze in the 2012 Games; Lise Legrand, Vice-President of the French Wrestling Federation and a bronze medal winner in the 2004 Olympics; Daniel Igali, a Nigerian-Canadian who won a gold medal in the 2000 Games and is a member of Nigeria’s provincial parliament; and Jim Scherr, the first Olympian to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and a bronze medalist in the World Championships.
Newly elected FILA President Lalovic stated that “These five panelists are representative of the passion, dedication and diversity of wrestling’s athletes and fans around the world. We are thankful that they have taken the time to help us communicate the changes our sport has undergone since the IOC Executive Board’s decision to recommend the removal of wrestling from the Olympic Games programme.”
The same five members of the presentation team also represented FILA at the September 8 Full IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Wrestling Wins Spot in Final IOC Vote
At an IOC Executive Board session in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wrestling advanced to IOC Full Session joining the sports of Squash and Baseball-Softball in a final vote Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nenad Lalovic, the newly- elected President of FILA, expressed the organization’s satisfaction following the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Executive Board decision to include wrestling as one of the sports under consideration for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games.
In addition to wrestling, the other sports presenting in St. Petersburg were baseball & softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, and wushu.
President Lalovic noted that “While our place in the Olympic Games is still not guaranteed, this decision recognizes the great lengths to which we are going to reform our sport and address the IOC’s concerns. At FILA’s recent Extraordinary Congress we enacted a number of rule and governance changes and we hope that our continued efforts will ensure we are successful at the final vote in September. We recognize that there is still a long road ahead but we will continue to work to preserve our place in the Olympic Games.”
Women Wrestlers in Spotlight in Battle of the Falls
World Wrestling Month ended in dramatic fashion on May 31 with women's teams from Canada, Ukraine and the United States competing against a stunning backdrop of Niagara Falls. The Canadians won the tournament on their side of the famous falls but the real winner was the sport of wrestling, especially the freestyle discipline of women's wrestling that had the stage all to itself in The Battle of the Falls. It capped a month in which wrestling made incredible strides to solidify its spot in the Olympic Games.
A return Trip to Olympia. It’s Only Been 2,700 Years
Wrestlers from around the world gathered at the birthplace of the Olympic Movement – Olympia, Greece – to participate in a Senior International Tournament. This gathering of wrestlers was significant, as it represented the themes of FILA’s Save Olympic Wrestling campaign: wrestling is universal, wrestling is for everyone and wrestling is one of the original sports.
Both male and female wrestlers from Albania, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iran, Russia and the United States, competed in this tournament, which was run under the new rules passed by the FILA Bureau at the Extraordinary Congress in May. Youth wrestlers competed on the grounds of the Palestra, making history as the first wrestlers to compete in the area since the end of the Ancient Olympic Games era in 393 AD. Also of historic note, the two female youth athletes that took part in the exhibition were the first ever female athletes to wrestle in Ancient Olympia.
FILA President, Nenad Lalovic, noted, “We’ve been there before, almost 3,000 years ago in the first Olympic Games. We look forward to returning to our roots with this special event that shows the passion of the sport of wrestling. We want our wrestlers to reach back and feel what those athletes on the fields of Olympia did those many years ago when our sport helped start the Olympic Games.”
Wrestling’s Biggest Victory…Back in the Games
Wrestling battled back to regain its spot in the Olympic Games in a resounding first-round vote by the IOC in its Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Nenad Lalovic, expressed the organization's satisfaction following the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) vote to keep wrestling in the Olympic Games.
"I want to offer my sincere gratitude to each member of the International Olympic Committee that voted to save Olympic wrestling today," said President Lalovic. "With this vote, you have shown that the steps we have taken to improve our sport have made a difference. I assure each of you that our modernization will not stop now. We will continue to strive to be the best partner to the Olympic Movement that we can be." President Lalovic continued, "I also wish to offer my appreciation and admiration to the leaders and supporters of the squash and baseball/softball bids. Each of their campaigns was well organized and showcased a passion for their respective sports."
"To the millions of wrestlers, supporters and fans around the world that came together to save Olympic wrestling, I offer a very big thank you," continued President Lalovic. "Every one of you fought very hard for this victory. Now we must remain united to make certain we live up to the expectations that have been placed on all of us by virtue of this vote."
FILA Athlete Commission Begins in Budapest
Seven athletes were elected by their peers in Budapest, Hungary, at the World Wrestling Championships to serve on the newly-formed FILA Athlete Commission. The commission, which was part of the organization’s commitment to involve athletes, includes three Olympic champions and wrestlers from three continents.
The athletes on the commission include Maria Prevolaraki, Greece ; Carol Huynh, Canada ; Jake Herbert, USA; Kaori Icho, Japan ; Christophe Guenot, France; Hamid Soryan Reihanpour, Iran and Tomas Lorincz, Hungary.
The voting was done by the athletes representing their countries at the World Wrestling Championships.
“This is our new direction that we promised the IOC when we made our case to stay in the Olympic Games, “ said FILA President Nenad Lalovic. “We want our current athletes involved in what we do, how we do things and to be a big part of the future that we have as an excellent organization.”
Carol Huynh Elected Chair of Athletes’ Commission
Carol Huynh a gold medal-winning wrestler from Canada, was elected chair of the newly-formed FILA Athlete Commission and will represent the sport’s athletes on the FILA Bureau. She becomes the third woman on the organization’s governing body and part of the new direction FILA promised the International Olympic Committee when wrestling was reinstated as an Olympic sport on September 8.
Huynh was born in British Columbia, Canada, to ethnic Chinese refugees who emigrated from Vietnam. She returned to her parent’s country to win a gold medal in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Her gold medal was Canada’s second medal ever in women’s wrestling and its first gold medal in the sport. She returned four years later to win a bronze medal in 2012 in London in the women’s 48 kg freestyle competition. She was inducted into the FILA Hall of Fame, on Sept. 20, 2013 during the FILA World Championships in Budapest.
Huynh was part of the five-person team that presented wrestling’s case to the International Committee September 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that resulted in wrestling rejoining the Olympic program. She also spoke for the sport in May in St. Petersburg, Russia, when wrestling was one of the three sports the IOC Executive Board recommended to be forwarded to the full IOC Session.
“It's a great honor to have been elected by my peers to be on the Athletes’ Commission and to represent them on the FILA Bureau,” Huynh said. “It is an even greater responsibility to ensure that the athletes’ voice is heard. My goal as Athletes Commission Representative is to help cultivate an environment in our global wrestling community in which our athletes take an active role and interest in the governance of our sport.
“This role in governance for athletes is an important step for FILA,” she added. “It indicates that athletes are the main focus. With the collaboration of my fellow Athletes’ Commission members, I have high hopes and confidence in the direction of our New FILA.”
“Carol has been in the sport a short time but has been a part of our history,” said FILA President Nenad Lalovic. “She helped our sport at a critical time to recapture our Olympic spot. And now she’s part of the first Athlete’s Commission in our sport’s history and will represent our athletes from around the world in the FILA Bureau. We couldn’t be prouder.”
The other women on the 26-member FILA Bureau are Rodica Yaksi, Turkey, and Natalia Yariguina, Russia.
Lalovic Named World Sports Innovator
FILA President Nenad Lalovic, who led the international wrestling federation's successful effort to get the sport back into the Olympic Games, was named one of the world's top 20 Sports Innovators in 2013 by SportBusiness International.
Lalovic, who became president of FILA soon after the sport was recommended to be dropped from the Olympic Program by the IOC's Executive Committee in February, led a successful challenge for the reinstatement of the sport in the Games. He guided wrestling, the Olympic sport that had been part of the Games for more than 2,700 years, past seven other sports that sought inclusion into the sport program. The full IOC Session voted to include wrestling in the Olympic Games on Sept. 8, 2013, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, capping a seven-month effort to save the sport.
The Serbian businessman joins an elite group of individuals cited by the magazine that includes Dana White, the president of Ultimate Fighting Championship; Bernie Ecclestone, CEO, Formula One; Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League; David Stern, Commissioner of the National Basketball Association; Seb Coe, Executive Chairman of CSM Sport and Entertainment and President of the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games in 2012; Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee; Dmitry Chernyshenko, President and CEO of the Sochi 2014 Olympics; Rapper Jay-Z; and others who have shaped the sports industry in 2013.
SportBusiness International's annual Sports Innovator of the Year list honors the men and women who have made the most original, foresightful and unrivalled business decisions in the last 12 months. The list was compiled using votes fromSportBusiness International subscribers and a five-person expert judging panel.
"It's an honor to be included in this impressive list of sport's most accomplished leaders," said Lalovic of the recent honor. "But, it's more important to the sport of wrestling that everyone rose up and fought...from fans, to wresters, coaches, moms and dads, and to a lot of passionate people who stood by this sport in it's finest hour. The sport and it's passion is the winner here. I was just fortunate to be part of this amazing effort."
Weight Classes Named for Olympics, Women Get Two Additional Spots
The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) announced the weight classes for men and women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman competition for the Olympic Games in 2016. The organization that governs the sport worldwide also announced rule changes and competition format that will begin Jan. 1, 2014.
The new classes became necessary when FILA added two classes to women’s freestyle competition and reduced each of the men’s styles by one weight class, therefore setting a 6-6-6 field for men’s freestyle, Greco-Roman and women’s freestyle wrestling for the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
FILA’s Technical Commission worked with the federation’s Medical, Scientific, Referee and Athlete’s Commissions to form the basis of changes for the sport of Wrestling that will be in effect through the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The new weight classes for the Olympic Games, which go into effect in 2014, are:
Men’s Freestyle (all weights in kilograms): 57, 65, 74, 86, 97, 125
Greco-Roman: 59, 66, 75, 85, 98, 130
Women’s Freestyle: 48, 53, 58, 63, 69, 75.
There will be eight weight classes in each discipline at the upcoming World Championships.
FILA, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, is the global governing body of the sport of wrestling. It works to promote the sport and facilitate the activities of its 177 national federations from around the world. It is based in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland.
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