IOC President defends system on wrestling's Olympic status
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — IOC President Jacques Rogge defended the process that led to the removal of wrestling from the Olympic program and the sport’s quick return as a candidate for inclusion in the 2020 Games.
“I don’t see any shortcoming in the system,” Rogge said Friday. “I don’t see an error in the system.”
Wrestling was eliminated from the list of core sports by the IOC in February but, after revamping its structure and adopting new rules, was selected Wednesday as a possible additional sport on the 2020 program.
Wrestling made a shortlist along with baseball-softball and squash for a single opening in 2020. The IOC will vote in September on which sport to include. If wrestling wins, it means no new sport will be brought in as originally planned.
“You don’t go for a new one for the sake of a new one,” Rogge said. “Novelty is not the issue, quality is the issue. ... The purpose is to have the best possible Olympic program.”
On other issues, Rogge said the six candidates in the race to succeed him as president in September will present their manifestos directly to IOC members in July, and he dropped his proposal for the next president to be paid after the contenders said they did not want to receive a salary.
Rogge is already looking ahead to his final day in office.
“I am definitely in the last stretch,” he said. “I see the finish line and I see the ribbon, and on the ribbon it is written 10th of September, 2013. I hope to cross it in good shape, leaving a strong, well-organized IOC to my successor and having fulfilled my duty.”
February’s surprising decision to eliminate wrestling — a sport dating back to the ancient Olympics in Greece — caused an international uproar and prompted the United States, Russia, Iran and other countries to join forces to save the sport.
Nenad Lalovic replaced Raphael Martinetti as FILA president and the federation brought women and athletes into decision-making roles and enacted rule changes to make the competition more fan-friendly.
“Wrestling responded well,” Rogge said.
IOC vice president Thomas Bach of Germany said the makeup of the sports program will need to be reviewed in the future, but wrestling did what it had to do to get back in contention.
“You could clearly see they got the message,” Bach said. “They changed their sport within three months. Sometimes for brave reforms, you need pressure.”
Wrestling, baseball-softball and squash were selected as finalists after five other applicant sports were eliminated — karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and the Chinese martial art of wushu.
“If there is a consideration that one of the eight applicant sports is better than the other ones, then it should be chosen even if it is an existing sport,” Rogge said. “We do not go for change for the sake of change.”
Rogge said the three sports will now have to work hard to convince the 100-plus IOC members to vote for them on Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“You have much more than a slide and a video,” he said. “You have a spirit that makes the sport special. If they speak the language of sport, they will be persuasive.”
Rogge spoke at the end of a three-day executive board meeting in St. Petersburg, held in conjunction with the SportAccord convention.
The meetings came in the thick of the race to succeed Rogge when his term ends on Sept. 10. The six candidates are: Bach and fellow vice president Ng Ser Miang of Singapore, finance commission chairman Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, amateur boxing association chief C.K. Wu of Taiwan, rowing federation head Denis Oswald of Switzerland and former pole vaulter Sergei Bubka of Ukraine.
Rogge said the executive board agreed Friday that the candidates will present their manifestos to IOC members in person, a break from previous campaign rules. The presentations will take place behind closed doors in Lausanne, Switzerland, on July 4.
However, Rogge’s proposal for the IOC president to receive a salary was withdrawn. IOC presidents traditionally serve as volunteers, though they receive expenses. Rogge said he consulted with the six contenders on his recommendation.
“They said they did not want to be remunerated and they would go under the current system of cost reimbursements,” he said. “The principle could be reviewed in the future, but for this election it is not applicable.”
Rogge offered simple advice for the candidates.
“They have to remain themselves, have to remain what they are with their personality,” he said. “Any of the six candidates would be a very good president of the IOC.”