To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  TOKYO (October 11) - FILA president Raphael Martinetti vowed to protect wrestling。ッs two styles and seven weight categories in the Olympic Games during a press conference with the Japanese media at the recent World Cup of women's wrestling. Martinetti, interviewed in Japanese with a translator, pointed out that some countries wrestle only one style and to eliminate either freestyle or greco-roman from the Olympic program would close the door to the Games for some of these countries.

  Martinetti, elected FILA president in September 2002, also discussed possible wild card berths to the Olympics for Iraq and Afghanistan, changes in attitudes toward women。ッs wrestling, and a possible change in the current competition system.

Question: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended that one of the two men。ッs styles be eliminated (from the Olympic program), hasn't it?

Mr. Martinetti: It is true that the IOC Program Commission has made such a proposal. But, IOC president Jacques Rogge has agreed that both styles are necessary in wrestling. Eliminating either of the styles would be like trying to run the 100 meters on one leg. There are a number of countries that wrestle only freestyle and others that only wrestle greco-roman. If one style were to be eliminated, it would mean that those countries (that practice only that particular style) would have their way to the Olympics closed.
Q: Does this mean that both styles will continue to be held in the Olympics?

M: We have an understanding that wrestling will continue as is through the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After Beijing, I don。ッt what the IOC will say. It may be necessary to reform the international wrestling federation (FILA), but we will keep up our efforts for the continuation of both men。ッs styles and for seven weight categories for women (in the Olympics).
Q: How will you respond if the IOC decides that in order to keep both styles of wrestling the number of weight categories must be reduced?

M: We will fight. Wrestling has already reduced its weight categories from 10 to eight, and now seven. We cannot agree to any more reductions than this. Wrestling is limited to 360 entries in the Olympics. This is 300 wrestlers less than the number in the world championships. In terms of countries, that means about 20 countries are not able to take part (in the Olympics). If reductions must be made, it should be from sports with a larger number of events like athletics.
Q: Recently, judo has become more widespread internationally (than wrestling). A total of 97 countries took part in the judo world championships in Osaka in September while only 70 countries entered the (freestyle) wrestling world championships in New York (the same week).

M: If you also consider the greco-roman wrestling world championships that were held in France (in October), it might be said that wrestling is the more widespread sport. The International Judo Federation provides air tickets to three people from each country in order to increase the number of countries entered. It might be that FILA needs to do the same thing. Still, there are cases like the recent athletics world championships (in France in August) where an athlete from Afghanistan ran the 100 meters in athletic wear something like pajamas and took nearly 20 seconds. So, we need to consider whether we let these kinds of countries enter in order to have a larger competition or if we want a meet that brings together the world。ッs top competitors.
Q: It has been suggested that there is a possibility of using a wild card for Iraqi wrestlers to compete in the Athens Olympics.

M: We're thinking about it. When asked which sports they would like to compete in at the Olympics, Iraq and Afghanistan both answered wrestling. The wild card is for countries that did not qualify for the Olympics even though they wrestled in the world championships and the Olympic qualifiers. For countries that did not do that, however, an allocation of five* invitations can be issued with an agreement of the IOC, FILA and the Athens Olympics organizing committee. We are thinking about this for Iraq and Afghanistan. We want to support the countries that could not compete because of war and it is also our duty to help with the spread of wrestling.
(*Note: According to a FILA communiquィヲ issued in February, the number of invitations to be issued by the Tripartite Commission is four.)
Q: What is happening with the spread of female wrestling in the Islamic world?

M: Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey already have women's wrestling. When Iran takes it up, then women。ッs wrestling will have a real world championship. Recently, I asked the prime minister of Iran "Won't you please let your women try wrestling?" He answered"We will think about it. In the future...," but he was not specific about when. Still, compared to the past, the feeling toward women is changing. In the past, (Iranian wrestlers) would not compete on a mat that had been used by the women and we have had cases in which all of the (Iranian) wrestlers defaulted. Now, we don't have this kind of thing.
Q: How about the current competition system? There is no seeding or repechage, so if two strong wrestlers are in the same preliminary pool there is no chance for one of them to advance to a higher place.

M: This is a pending issue for FILA. According to the regulations, we cannot change the competition system for the Athens Olympics. If make a change after Athens, we will not make a change for another eight years. We would like to make our decisions after studying fully a variety of proposals. Personally, I would like to see a tournament system that can be completed in one day.