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Wrestling’s Olympic campaign goes to Olympia

July 21, 2013

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — More than 100 wrestlers from 12 countries came back to the sport’s roots in Ancient Olympia as part of a campaign to keep wrestling in the Olympics.

The 2nd Olympia tournament finished Sunday at the birthplace of the ancient games and is being used by wrestling’s international federation FILA to push the sport’s case for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee in February voted to exclude wrestling after the 2016 Rio Games. Wrestling is now competing against baseball/softball and squash for one opening on the 2020 program, with the IOC to vote in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Ancient Olympia, 320 kilometres (200 miles) southwest of Athens, is used for the Olympic flame lighting ceremony and is normally off limits to such competitions.

A ceremony and relay race held Sunday will be part of a video sent by FILA to the IOC to plead its case.

Wrestling was a staple of the ancient Olympics, having been introduced there at the 18th Olympiad, in 708 BC, and remained on the program until the very end, 273 games later. It was a part of the modern revival of the Olympics in 1896.

This weekend’s event was not held in the old stadium, in deference to the need to preserve the ancient space and also because of the blistering heat. The event was staged at the nearby International Olympic Academy, the institution set up by the IOC to promote the Olympic ideals. Most of the event was held indoors. Only the finals, on Sunday evening, were held outdoors.

A ceremony was held Saturday afternoon in the ancient sporting grounds. There, a little portion of the soil was taken, put in an urn and relayed by athletes to the spot where the heart of the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, is buried, on the Olympic Academy’s grounds.

“If the IOC refuses to reinstate wrestling, we will continue the campaign to reinstate the sport, of course,” said Paris Kourtzidis, a former wrestler working on the Olympic campaign. “But those federations that cannot find sponsors will suffer.”

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