To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


 By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports


MOSCOW (September 19) - Raphael Martinetti was elected president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) on September 19, vowing to continue with the work of predecessor Milan Ercegan and ensure wrestling's "honored place" among the other sports at the Olympic Games.

  Martinetti, 59, was the only candidate nominated to replace Ercegan, who was stepping down after 30 years as FILA president. Martinetti brings an impressive list of credentials to the FILA presidency, including being the current head of the FILA officiating committee and serving on the FILA Bureau for 20 years.

 The Swiss businessman, nevertheless, takes the reins at a crucial time for the ancient sport. An internal report of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), discussed by the IOC Executive Board in August, has recommended that either greco-roman or freestyle wrestling be cut from the Olympic program since the media and general public have little comprehension of the differences between the two styles.

  This recommendation comes less than one year after FILA agreed to trim eight weight categories in both styles to seven in order to make a place for women's wrestling in the Olympic Games. Women's wrestling will make its Olympic debut in Athens in 2004 with four gold medals at stake. Martinetti told reporters on the eve of the 2002 greco-roman wrestling world championships in Moscow that he would "struggle" to try and prove that "greco-roman cannot be eliminated from the Olympics."

  He added that he will meet with IOC president Jacques Rogge in the near future to try and change the IOC's point of view. Martinetti also called for the cooperation of IOC vice president Vitaly Smirnov of Russia in maintaining wrestling's place in the Olympic Movement. "I'm honored that the FILA Congress has entrusted me with the management of wrestling and I will try my best to ensure that wrestling will maintain a honorable place among the other sports on the Olympic program," Martinetti said.

  He also vowed to "continue with the tradition of Mr. Ercegan -- developing this tradition but not changing it." Ercegan, who was first elected FILA president in Munich in 1972, has overseen the spread of wrestling around the world through his program of technical and coaching assistance.

  At the Moscow meeting, the FILA Congress approved the United Arab Emirates for membership, making it the 143rd country represented in wrestling's world governing body. Ercegan pointed to the development of women's wrestling during his tenure as one of his many accomplishments while he has also promoted the training and education of coaches around the world to "make the sport more professional and technically attractive."

  Ercegan, 86, announced in July that he would not seek another term as FILA president for health and family reasons. The FILA Congress also voted for six members to its executive board, returning Japan's Tomiaki Fukuda for a second six-year term. Also returned to the FILA Bureau were Theodoros Hamakos (Greece), Mikhail Mamiachvili (Russia) and Larry Sciacchentano (United States). Newly elected were Csaba Hegedus (Hungary) and Tzeno Tzenov (Bulgaria).

  The Bureau also presented Raiko Petrov FILA's highest award, the golden wreath, for his work in developing wrestling in Bulgaria and his scientific and scholarly work concerning wrestling.