USA Today: Wrestling officials were asleep, interim chief says

17.03.2013 | World News RSS

USA Today: Wrestling officials were asleep, interim chief says

When wrestling's Olympic fate was being weighed at the Swiss headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in February, no one from the sport's governing body was there to defend its cause.

Groups such as modern pentathlon aggressively lobbied for survival, but no representative from FILA, the international wrestling federation, attended the meeting.

Nenad Lalovic of Serbia was installed as interim president of FILA after wrestling was voted onto the Olympic fence in 2020 and beyond at the gathering of global sports decision-makers.

The head-scratching fact: FILA's office sits a mere 15 miles away on the north shore of Switzerland's Lake Geneva.

"When they were deciding it in February, no one was there," Lalovic said in a phone interview with the Des Moines Register. "Everyone said they were not informed, but that's hard for me to believe.

"We were a little bit asleep."

Lalovic promised that the alarm clock rang loudly — awakening a group that misjudged its Olympic standing.

The new FILA boss pledged swift work to position the sport as a viable, long-term Olympic participant as a second IOC vote looms in May. That meeting could add wrestling to a short list competing at a final vote in September for one spot in the 2020 Games.

Lalovic recently met with IOC president Jacques Rogge and has organized committees to re-examine everything from rules and uniforms to television and marketing possibilities.

Wrestling now must duke it out with a combined bid for baseball and softball, wakeboarding, squash, sport climbing, roller sports and the martial arts of karate and wushu. Those sports have known they'd be fighting for a spot, while wrestling leaders were caught off guard by the IOC's action.

"We have lost two years. Our competitors had two more years to prepare themselves," Lalovic said. "We're preparing ourselves for the bid at the presentation (to the IOC). It's a lot of work and we don't have much time.

"We're wrestlers, though — we'll fight all the time."

Lalovic said a uniform switch in the wrestling discipline known as Greco-Roman is a likely Olympic adjustment.

"The singlets have to change, for many reasons," he said. "They're too old. We've had the same uniforms for 20 or 30 years, or more. Greco-Roman, they will have sleeves probably. They sweat a lot. By the second or third bout, a wrestler can't make a grip.

"And they have to be distinctive from two styles (compared to freestyle), from the beginning. Spectators are mixing up the two styles, so make it even more clear."

The short timeline before the IOC votes will limit the ability of wrestling to make changes.

"The time is too short. We need to test all of this and implement all of this," Lalovic said. "We can't start before the next year, but we can speak about it to the membership in May."

Lalovic's ideas for change:

• Simplify rules: "They need to be less complicated. I want a man or woman who has never watched wrestling, goes in the hall in the morning and leaves later and knows all the rules. If so, everyone will attend wrestling."

• Promote more scoring: "Now, there's too much pushing. It's not interesting for the media, not interesting for the spectators — nothing. And the clinch (a position used to break ties) is bad. Clinches are bad. We also have to punish inactive wrestling. We have to oblige them to be more aggressive."

• Eliminate officiating subjectivity: "We all must know exactly how many points are scored in an easy, quick way. Not all the criteria we have now. The referees much be practically invisible. We want them to have no influence on the final result."

• Work with the IOC, rather than against: "We shouldn't give medals back (to the IOC in protest). I think it's bad. We have only one partner for our future, and it's the IOC. We can't go to the Olympics without it.

"I can understand emotional reactions, but it's not good. We can't push the IOC to decide after such behavior. Their minds can be changed, but only by improving our sport."

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

Тэги  Wrestling  |  Olympic  |  Bryce Miller Wrestling  |  Olympic  |  Bryce Miller

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