MOSCOW, March 13 (R-Sport) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday labeled the decision to exclude wrestling from the Olympics “unjustified” and said he hoped to take up the sport’s cause with the International Olympic Committee.
Wrestling was dropped from the IOC’s list of core Olympic sports last month and will vanish from the Games from 2020 onwards unless it beats seven other candidate sports to the last available slot.
“It appears unjustified that there is the exclusion from the Olympic program of traditional sports which originally formed the basis of and were on the program of the Olympic Games even in the time of Ancient Greece, from where the Olympic movement began,” Putin said.
Wrestling’s future requires a focused discussion “which I hope we will still be able to have with our friends from the International Olympic Committee,” Putin said.
Putin’s comments are his first public protests against the decision, although his spokesman Dmitry Peskov has previously vowed Russia would fight to help wrestling recover its place.
The final decision on the Olympic program for the 2020 Games will be made by the IOC in Buenos Aires in September along with the announcement of the host city.
Wrestling’s cause has brought together unlikely allies, with U.S. and Iranian national Olympic officials among those to call for the sport’s reinstatement.
The sport has been included in various forms at every Olympics since 1904. In recent years, it has struggled to attract spectator interest outside its stronghold countries and faced claims of corrupt refereeing at the Games.
Putin also said he hoped to see the Russian martial art of sambo added to the Olympic program in the future. Sambo is not on the IOC-approved list of candidate sports.