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From the desk of Don Porter

posted Jun 20, 2013, 2:21 PM by erodriguez@softballpr.net   [ updated Jun 20, 2013, 2:23 PM ]
Interview with FILA's President
 

By Steve Moorhouse 

You have recently been appointed President of FILA at a crucial time in the sport’s history. What are your main duties as President?

My main duty is to run the actual affairs and tournaments. We have a lot of tournaments coming up including the Mediterranean Games and all the continental championships. Then we follow that with the junior competitions. But at the same time we are applying the new rules which is a challenge. The only competition that will not be shown with the new rules is the Mediterranean Games because there was not enough time to implement all the changes and make it technically possible. We have to show that we can implement these new rules in time for Buenos Aires.

When the IOC removed wrestling from the Olympics and placed you in the contenders list, just how big of a blow was this to wrestling and were you surprised?

Yes I was surprised because I had not heard the rumours about us being cut before. On the other side of things though it probably is not a big surprise. Our federation was asleep, we were not improving our sport as fast as modern times require. We didn’t take into consideration the requirements of the media and the TV. You probably did not speak to us before the IOC cut. We were not known by the media and this is the result. Now we are reversing the situation and working hard by making changes in the governance of the federation. We will have a new bureau and now we have to make it all work. We have to show some results.

Although it was disappointing to be cut by the IOC, you speak about all these improvements and how you were ‘asleep’ before, do you think being dropped was actually a blessing in disguise?

Yes this is a lesson for all the sports though, not just wrestling. We all have to follow the requirements of the IOC, the media and of course the spectators. Everyone has to make their sports attractive and it is not easy. If you think about the changes volleyball made a couple of years ago with a small rule change they became very attractive, immediately. There are also so many challenges for spectators and young people in life today. They have video games and the internet, which if used in the correct way by sport may attract spectators, but if not you will lose your audience. The times are much more risky than before.

At London 2012 there seemed to be a lack of exposure for wrestling. Is this one of the reasons you feel that the IOC dropped the sport?

Well the rules were not understandable for the spectators, they were too complicated. The interference of the referees were in accordance to the rules but it didn’t help the viewer.  Now we want to reverse this. We want the spectators to know what is going on immediately which was a problem before and is a very important thing we get right. I can say that the presentation of matches to the media were bad as well and we have to work on this.

We are not well known enough either. This summer we have a Japanese girl (Saori Yoshida) who became three times Olympic champion. She is very well known in Japan but not outside of the country and things like this need to change.

You have introduced rule changes as a part of your revamp of the sport that will be put to the test at the junior championships in August. With the IOC decision in September, is it absolutely vital the changes run smoothly in August?

It will run smoothly, we have many countries who have already applied the rules in their national championships so that is not a problem. The matches will be faster, less protests and it is understandable immediately who the winner is and why!

One of the reasons wrestling was cut was because the IOC felt you needed to modernise. Is the new point system the only way you have done so or is there more to it?

There are a few things; the rule changes, the changes in governance, more participation from athletes in decision making and more women. We have changed our constitution to have at least one lady vice-president, we will have a minimum one more lady in our executive board and we proposed for 2020 to have six categories for women. This gives more equity to the sport.

Do you think the IOC are too focused on youth and modernisation and are ignoring traditional Olympic sports because of this?

Maybe because we have to respect the past, but we also have to learn from the past. Believe me for four thousand years of wrestling, the sport has changed a lot. The games from the arena are completely different to how they are now and these will be different to the games we have tomorrow. But we have to take into consideration our past to make our future better.

If wrestling is not chosen to be in the 2020 Olympic Games, would that be a catastrophe?

It will be a catastrophe for wrestling but we will not stop fighting.

What about for the Games? If there were to be an Olympic Games in 2020 without wrestling, would that be a catastrophe for the Olympics?

I cannot say that but it would be very difficult for many countries. From the bidders you have two of the three bidders where wrestling is extremely important – Japan and Istanbul. Even Spain is quite strong in wrestling and in particular in women’s wrestling. In Japan they are constructing the venue for wrestling to show to the commission of the IOC.

Do you think that gives you an advantage to show to the IOC that you have two bidding cities who are very wrestling orientated?

Not really because they cannot use that argument in any way. But that does give us more encouragement to work hard for wrestling and for FILA. Wrestling is one of the first sports and it is everywhere in the globe, you will always find some kind of wrestler wherever you go. The Olympic wrestling is issued from all of the wrestling foundations across the world. In Europe we do not even know how popular wrestling is in Africa. They have African wrestling, Olympic wrestling and every village has wrestling.

How confident are you that wrestling will be selected ahead of baseball/softball and squash in September at the IOC meeting in Buenos Aires?

I would repeat what I said before. I am determined but nobody can say they are 100% confident. I am determined and all of the people from the federation are very determined to work and continue to work for that goal. For wrestling the Olympics is incredibly important because we do not have a Super Bowl or a Final Four for wrestlers. For our athletes the Olympic Games is the top achievement and the biggest motivation in their sport career.

On a personal level, is this the biggest challenge you have faced in your career and do you wish you were president before the IOC dropped the sport?

Yes absolutely it is my biggest challenge but I do not wish I was president before. During our session just after the announcement I was not thinking about this. When everything happened the former president left the position and there became four or five candidates, voted for by our colleagues. I was the last one chosen but the first one who accepted the position knowing just how difficult it would be.

What is next for wrestling’s 2020 bid?

We are creating a new presentation for Buenos Aires and it will be different because we do not have to have speeches and explain things quite so much. We are working on that and have people in to help us. We did it very well in St Petersburg and we were the sole sport to be elected in the first half with eight votes. All the other sports got around six votes and we got eight immediately. That makes us optimistic. The new session should be in same percentage as before.

So does that make you the favourites then?

Yes we are the favourite and that was clearly said by our competitors at St Petersburg. However, we will not sleep on this because we know that everyone is preparing and everyone is doing the maximum that they can. Everybody wants to protect and promote their own sport and we have to compete but in a gentleman’s way.

Nenad's

Lori Nolan

International Softball Federation
Communications/Development Coordinator
1900 South Park Road | Plant City, FL 33563 | USA