US, Russia, Iran join hands to keep wrestling in Olympics

United Nations, May 15 (IANS) Iranians and Americans are often at odds in international politics, but the possible exit of wrestling from the Olympic games brought them together in a hope to save the sport at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York.

The wrestling teams from the US, Iran and Russia, three of the world’s wrestling superpowers, came together in solidarity here to keep wrestling in the Olympics, reports Xinhua.

The Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Feb 12, recommended wrestling to be left out of the Olympics in 2020. A final decision on the programme of the 2020 Olympics will be made by the entire IOC in September.

Ever since, a worldwide effort has been launched by the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) and all of the 177 members which participated in wrestling to ensure that wrestling will not be dropped from the Olympic program in 2020 and beyond.

One by one, diplomats from the Iranian and Russian UN Missions and a veteran American wrestling coach came to the podium here before the Iranian, American and Russian flags to speak in a bid to retain wrestling as an Olympic sport.

“Children around the globe go to the gym everyday in the hope to one day compete with the greatest (wrestlers) in the best stadia and arenas,” said Evgeny Zagaynov, Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

“Depriving them of the hope and the dream is inconceivable. Lets keep the dream alive.”

“We do, of course, want candidates to be considered in the 2020 Olympics, wrestling is unique and if the worst happens, the Olympics will never be the same,” Zagaynov said, adding that Russia will continue to reach out to members of the IOC Executive Board before the final decision is made in September in order to save the sport.

For his part, Seyed Mehdi Hosseini Mattin, political counsellor of the Iranian UN Mission, said, “Wrestling has been part of the modern Olympics since 1896 and should not be deleted from the program.”

No US diplomats spoke at the ceremony.

To show solidarity among the often-divergent countries, the US, Iranian and Russian wrestling teams are scheduled to meet in a historic exhibition Wednesday in New York City, kicking off what the FILA has described as “the World Wrestling Month.”

The New York exhibition, known as “The Rumble on the Rails,” will be held at the Grand Central Terminal, the hub of daily railway traffic in the downtown area of New York City, in order to showcase the sport’s international appeal and popularity.

The Wednesday game will also mark the first time in 10 years for the Iranians to compete in the United States, which is a typical example of how wrestling transcends politics and cultural differences. They will compete with Americans in another exhibition in Los Angles May 19.

“In championships, winning is less important, it is rather about the display of culture, social harmony, selflessness, friendship, fairness, courtesy and morals,” Mattin said. “It is exactly in this spirit that the (Iranian) international wrestling team accepted the kind invitation of the US wrestling competition and came to the United States to take part in friendly competitions.”

“I hope these friendly competitions can continue in the future, ” Mattin said.

“The United Nations brings people together from different religions and cultures,” said a wrestler from the United States, referring to the Tuesday event. “People came to the UN to find a common ground, and wrestling is here to help.”

“We’re going to show the world that the US, Iran and Russia, through the vehicle of wrestling, can bring people together,” said US coach Zeke Jones.

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