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|CPOW Weekly Update for June 4, 2013|
By Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling
SUMMARY: IOC selects wrestling as one of three sports on the shortlist for inclusion in 2020 and 2024 Olympics as a provisional sport… FILA all-star presentation team makes wrestling’s case to the IOC… Wrestling leaders perspective covered by international media concerning IOC decision… IOC President Jacques Rogge makes positive comments concerning wrestling’s efforts… U.S. leaders participate in major press conference after IOC vote… Billy Baldwin supports Olympic wrestling in Huffington Post op-ed… Actor Mark Ruffalo talks about his love for wrestling in USA Today… Battle At The Falls women’s event in Niagara Falls is a big success… National Wrestling Hall of Fame donates $10,000 to CPOW during Honors Weekend… National Wrestling Hall of Fame Class of 2013 has a strong connection to the Olympic movement.
The Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) is issuing a weekly update on Mondays, informing the wrestling community and the general public on its activities.
CPOW is a group of wrestling leaders assembled by USA Wrestling. Its charge is to oversee the effort within the United States to Keep Wrestling In the Olympics, as part of a coordinated international strategy designed to retain wrestling in the Olympics.
Here are the key news items that developed in the last week on the international and domestic scenes. This week, much of the news came from the International Olympic Committee Executive Board meeting on Wednesday, May 29 in St. Petersburg, Russia, where wrestling made the short list of sports for consideration for the 2020 Olympics.
International Relations News and Effort
• The International Olympic Committee Executive Board selected wrestling among three sports for the short list of candidate sports for the final provisional sport spot in the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games. The other sports which were named to the short list of sports were squash and baseball/softball. These sports will be presented for a final vote by the entire IOC General Assembly in its meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in September. Only one of these sports will be included in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics. The sports which were not selected to advance to the final vote in Buenos Aires were karate, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.
• FILA, the international wrestling federation made its presentation to the IOC Executive Board with an all-star group of wrestling leaders, including new FILA President Nenad Lalovic of Serbia and four past Olympic athletes, Jim Scherr of the United States, Carol Huynh of Canada, Daniel Igali of Nigeria and Canada and Lise Legrand of France. After their presentation, and after the IOC Executive Board announcements, all of these leaders were interviewed by the world press about wrestling and its quest to remain on the Olympic program.
• Worldwide coverage of the IOC Executive Board decision included many voices from the international wrestling community. "The first part of the process is complete, and we're on to the next and most important part of the process. There is a lot of work ahead, but we're up to the challenge,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender. "This outcome was made possible by the hard work and dedication of the worldwide wrestling community,” said USA Wrestling President Jim Ravannack. "We are jubilant yet humbled by the IOC decision as we realize that it is a recognition of our hard work in reforming the governance of the sport and changing the rules and presentation of wrestling,” said CPOW chairman Bill Scherr. “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,” said FILA President Nenad Lalovic.
• IOC President Jacques Rogge made statements concerning the Executive Board decision as well as the next stage of the process which concludes in Buenos Aires in September. “It was never going to be an easy decision but I feel my colleagues on the Board made a good decision in selecting baseball/softball, squash and wrestling to be put forward in Buenos Aires,” said Rogge after the decision was announced. A day later, Rogge talked about the fact that improving the Olympic program is the focus of this process, not just making change. "You don't go for a new one for the sake of a new one. Novelty is not the issue, quality is the issue. ... The purpose is to have the best possible Olympic program," he told the Associated Press. Rogge repeated this theme in a report from Agence Presse France (AFP). "We do not go for change for the sake of change. We only go for a review of the Olympic program periodically to take the decision to lead the best Olympic program,” he said. Also making a comment about why wrestling was added to the short list was IOC Executive Board member Thomas Bach, who said, “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.”
• Shortly after the IOC decision was announced in St. Petersburg, CPOW held a successful media teleconference featuring four of the key U.S. leaders involved with the Keep Olympic Wrestling effort: Jim Scherr, who was on the FILA presentation team, USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender, FILA Vice President Stan Dziedzic and CPOW chairman Bill Scherr. Over 21 major media outlets joined the call and reported the reaction of the American leaders to the world. "We impressed the executive board. We were the first sport selected overwhelmingly by the executive board," said Jim Scherr, as quoted by USA Today. “Obviously we feel incredibly passionate about the fact that wrestling is the greatest sport known to man and we will not rest until every one of the IOC members at least hears our story,” said Rich Bender in a Washington Post story.
• Actor Billy Baldwin, a leader within CPOW, had an op-ed appear in the Huffington Post on the day after the IOC announcement in St. Petersburg. In his story, Baldwin noted that “the people involved in the sport, from the athletes to the coaches to the fans, are the most passionate and honorable people I have ever met.” He talked about the worldwide impact if wrestling is not returned to the Olympic program. “Imagine how bad it would be for a boy living in a remote village in Iran where it is their national sport. Or a girl living on a farm in Russia where wrestling is an obsession, or scores of other less privileged nations where there are not as many opportunities as we are blessed with here in the United States. It would be devastating,” he wrote. Baldwin encouraged the wrestling community not to be complacent, but to continue working hard through the final vote in Argentina in September. He also noted that this challenge could truly improve wrestling in the long term. “This is a big opportunity for us, our big chance. Let's take advantage of this international outpouring of support for wrestling and use it to elevate our sport to heights we never dreamed possible,” wrote Baldwin.
• Also on the day after the IOC Executive Board announcement, USA Today’s Kelly Whiteside had an extensive interview with actor Mark Ruffalo about wrestling. Ruffalo will play wrestling icon Dave Schultz in an upcoming major motion picture entitled Foxcatcher and was a wrestler in his youth. "Many of the qualities I learned in wrestling became deeply needed for the job I have now. I think it helped me a lot during the years I struggled, that determination and perseverance,” he said about how the sport helped him in his acting career. Ruffalo was also very impressed with the wrestling people he worked with during the filming of Foxcatcher. “It's probably one of the most close-knit, stand-up group of individuals from all walks of life that I've ever come in contact with. They all have a sense of decency and righteousness and are incredibly disciplined and all leaders in their own fields and they love the sport,” he said.
• The exciting Battle at the Falls women’s dual meet event, featuring the USA, Canada and Ukraine, was a big success in Niagara Falls, Canada on May 31, the final day of World Wrestling Month. Many of the world’s best women’s freestyle wrestlers were showcased. Prior to the meet, teams took part in a photo shoot in front of Niagara Falls from the Canadian side.The competition was also a spectacular demonstration of the skill and passion of women’s wrestling, as well as its amazing development as an Olympic sport. Canada won the competition with victories over the United States and Ukraine. In the other dual meet, the United States edged Ukraine, with a victory in the final match by college star Brittney Roberts at 72 kg. The women athletes praised the event and its impact on the effort to retain Olympic wrestling. “A big factor with the International Olympic Committee is gender equality. Women’s wrestling is a growing sport. To capitalize on this event here is really important for us as a global community of women’s wrestlers, and events like this will help our sport grow,” said Veronica Carlson of Team USA. The competition was truly a celebration of the sport. “It was great to see all the unity and friendship between countries. It was so much fun talking to the girls from Canada and Ukraine. There are so many people around the world who really love wrestling. We love Olympic wrestling – it’s a great sport,” said Roberts.
• The National Wrestling Hall of Fame held its Honors Weekend in Stillwater, Okla. At the opening function of the weekend, the presentation of the plaques at the Hall of Fame, Jim Keen, chairman of the Hall’s Board of Governors, presented a check for $10,000 to the Committee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW) for the effort to Keep Olympic Wrestling. Accepting the check were CPOW members John Bardis, Noel Thompson and Rich Bender. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum was a founding member of the Coalition to Keep Wrestling In the Olympics, and its Executive Director Lee Roy Smith is a member of CPOW.
• The Olympic theme was a huge part of this year’s Honors Weekend, as most of the inductees, as well as numerous others who attended the event, have a direct involvement in USA Wrestling and the Olympic movement. Three of the four Distinguished Members were members of at least two Olympic Teams, with Dan Chandler making three Olympic Greco-Roman teams, Melvin Douglas making two Olympic freestyle teams and Matt Ghaffari making two Olympic Greco-Roman teams, including an Olympic silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Chandler has coached numerous U.S. Olympic and World Teams. Both of the Outstanding American honorees have an Olympic connection. John Bardis was the Team Leader of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team and a third-place finisher at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Greco-Roman. Outstanding American Joshua Harris is a member of U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Trustees. The Medal of Courage winner Matt Hamill competed in freestyle and Greco-Roman on Senior level and was a Deaflympic athlete. Order of Merit winner John Dustin was an international referee, an AAU employee who managed Olympic wrestling programs, and served as event director of Olympic wrestling events. The Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winner Zain Retherford is considered a future Olympic hopeful after winning a FILA Cadet World gold medal in men’s freestyle. These inductees spoke about their love of wrestling and their support for keeping the sport in the Olympics throughout the weekend.
We ask one thing from the wrestling community. Please stay informed and stay involved. You can do this by registering on www.KeepOlympicWrestling.com. We will give you weekly updates on the activities of CPOW and the international wrestling community so you can truly be a part of the solution.