There's no place like home for wrestling

Wrestling goes back to its roots with a tournament taking place at Ancient Olympia - a site normally off limits.

Last Modified: 19 Jul 2013 14:10
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The ancient ruins of Olympia - which hosted Games every four years from 776BC - are now popular with tourists [GETTY]

Wrestlers participating in an international tournament have been granted rare access to compete at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in southern Greece as part of a campaign to keep the sport from being dropped after the 2016 Games.

The site at Ancient Olympia, 320 kilometers (200 miles) southwest of Athens, is normally off limits to sporting competitions and is used for the Olympic flame lighting ceremony.

The 15-country tournament will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Wrestling was one of the sports at the ancient Olympics, which also included running, boxing, long jump, javelin and discus.

It's an obligation we have both to modern Olympic history... and in our roles as guardians of the heritage and spirit of the ancient games. Wrestling is a connection between the two

Yiannis Andrianos, Greece's Deputy minister for sport

"This was the birthplace of wrestling... so we are going back to our roots,'' Nenad Lalovic, the head of the sport's governing body, said Friday.

"We were very happy to be allowed to use a place like this for a wrestling tournament - and we're very thankful."

The IOC in February dropped wrestling from a list of core sports, leaving it to compete for a place in the 2020 Games against baseball and squash. 

A decision will be taken in September, when the IOC's executive board meets in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to select the host city for those Olympics, with Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid in the running.

Lalovic, a 55-year-old Serb, took over the federation after the sport's exclusion, and said he hoped sweeping changes to the body's operating rules and new international competition rules for the sport would help get wrestling re-instated.

"We had a medieval constitution and we changed that," he said.

"The Olympic Games are limited by the number of disciplines, and of course everyone who doesn't follow the instructions of the organisers must be punished. It's like having a very fast car and ignoring the speed limit.''

The campaign to restore wrestling to the Olympics has received enthusiastic backing from Greek sporting authorities and the conservative-led government, which agreed to host the weekend events despite steep cuts in public funding due to the country's financial crisis and international bailout.

"We are determined to offer every possible form of support to keep wrestling in Olympic competition," Yiannis Andrianos, a deputy minister for sport, said earlier this week.

"It's an obligation we have both to modern Olympic history... and in our roles as guardians of the heritage and spirit of the ancient games. Wrestling is a connection between the two.''


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.

Spirits are high in Scotland's 'Whisky Capital of the World' with one distillery thirsty for independence.
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
Blogger critical of a lack of government transparency faces defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
join our mailing list