An international match between the United States and Iran is due to take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena this month as part of the campaign to keep the sport in the Olympic Games.
The match in Los Angeles on May 19 comes just ahead of the vital presentations in St Petersburg and it is part of the worldwide “Keep Olympic Wrestling” movement to convince the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow the sport to retain its place at the Games.
The event at Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena is being put together by USA Wrestling and Beat the Streets-Los Angeles in cooperation with California USA Wrestling.
It is being billed as “United 4 Wrestling” and comes as part of World Wrestling Month, which was announced in April by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA).
The event is remarkable because the U.S. and Iran have no diplomatic relations with each other following the Iran Revolution in 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini replaced Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’, who had assumed power following a coup orchestrated by the CIA.
The U.S. has enforced a trade embargo on Iran since 1995 and in recent times there have been regular disputes between the two countries over Iran’s rights to follow a nuclear program.
But in February, a few days after the IOC Executive Board controversially decided to recommend that wrestling be removed from the list of core sports after Rio 2016, Americans joined Iranian competitors in Tehran to protest about the decision, with members of U.S. freestyle wrestling team even shaking hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Wrestling is Iran’s biggest and most popular sport, with several million registered participants, and is their most successful Olympic discipline.
Of the 15 medals Iran has won in the Olympics since they made their debut at Paris in 1900, eight have come in wrestling, including three at London 2012.
“This is an exciting opportunity for wrestling to show the world its ability to bring together nations of different political, cultural and geographic backgrounds,” said USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender. “We are excited to participate in World Wrestling Month and pleased to partner again with California USA Wrestling and Beat the Streets-Los Angeles to bring wrestling to new heights.”
The competition meet will feature the current international freestyle wrestling rules while line-ups will be released nearer the event.
“This being a unique visit to Los Angeles by the Iranian wrestling team,” said California USA Wrestling chairman Duane Morgan. “It is fantastic and because of the large Iranian-American population in Southern California, this event will provide one of the most compelling showcase settings our sport has ever had.”
Wrestling has now joined the seven sports bidding to get onto the program for the 2020 Olympics which are baseball-softball, climbing, karate, roller sports squash, wakeboarding and wushu.
All eight are due to give a presentation to the IOC Executive Board in St Petersburg on May 29 before the final shortlist is announced to be put forward for the IOC membership to vote on at its Session in Buenos Aires on September 8.
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com. To follow him on Twitter click here. Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.