USA Today: Brazilian leader fears impact of wrestling decision

21.03.2013 | World News RSS

USA Today: Brazilian leader fears impact of wrestling decision

When people consider the possible ripple effects of removing wrestling from the 2020 Olympics and beyond, Pedro Gama Filho sees massive waves.

Gama Filho fears fallout from the pending International Olympic Committee vote in September will have more impact than global sports leaders understand or can predict. Rio de Janeiro will host the next Summer Olympics in 2016, which could be the last Games with wrestling on the program.

"It would be devastating with us, because we're starting to grow now," said Gama Filho, 37, who has been president of the country's wrestling federation for eight years. "We just started in 2004. If they do that (eliminate wrestling from the Olympics) and resources were cut, that would be fatal to the sport here."

MORE: Register's coverage of wrestling's battle

There are 177 national federations for wrestling, with U.S. officials estimating one million athletes compete in America — and 10 million worldwide.

Brazil, Gama Filho said, plans to be active in influencing IOC voters.

"FILA will try use the influence of the Brazilian Olympic Committee, and Carlos Nuzman (president of Rio 2016)," said Gama Filho, who recently became a member of FILA, the sport's international federation. "And IOC guys are constantly visiting Brazil and Rio, because of the upcoming Olympics. So we're working very closely with their representatives here, and it's a chance to speak with them often and explain the importance of wrestling."

Another wrestling ally will be Brazilian track and field president Roberto Gesta de Melo, a member of that sport's international governing group. Gama Filho said Gesta de Melo is well acquainted with IOC voters, especially with former track stars Sergey Bubka and Nawal El Moutawakel, chair of the IOC's coordination commission for Rio.

"I'm going to try and reach as many people as possible," Gama Filho said. "All the social media effort going on now is important, but at the end of the day it's politics really."

Part of Gama Filho's lobbying effort will focus on inherent qualities of wrestling, along with its role in Olympic history.

Gama Filho calls wrestling a "real" sport. "Two people, the same weight, facing each other on a mat. They don't need an apparatus. They don't need a racket or sword, just their bodies. You don't see a rich guy wrestling — it's a sport of the masses. That's what the Olympics were all about, so I'm not sure what happened with this."

Miller writes for the Des Moines Register, which has been covering wrestling's fight to stay on the Olympic program.

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