The United States, Russia and Iran have formed an unlikely alliance in their bid to keep wrestling in the Olympics, gathering this week in New York to stage friendly matches in a bid to promote the sport’s international ties.
To drive home their point, and to ensure more TV cameras are watching, they’ll compete inside Grand Central Station on Wednesday in an event dubbed “Rumble on the Rails.”
“We’re fighting for our lives, but in retrospect, we’re getting more attention than we’ve ever received,” Olympic wrestling champion Jordan Burroughs told the Associated Press.
“Walking in here and seeing all these cameras, you’re like, ‘What the heck’s going on?’ It's not a lot of times we get this much press.”
It’s all in an effort to reverse a decision that will eliminate wrestling from the 2020 Summer Games.
The International Olympic Committee meets in September, and is expected to ratify the recommendation, BBC reported.
Athletes have competed for wrestling medals since the first Summer Olympics in 1896 in Greece.
In London last summer, 344 athletes competed in 11 medal events.
However, the IOC routinely re-evaluates sports based on performance across nations, TV ratings, ticket sales and doping violations.
While the IOC decision caused grief in the sport’s community, those in charge said the sport hasn’t evolved quickly enough.
How it modernizes will be up to Nenad Lalovic, who is likely to become president of wrestling’s governing body, FILA, this weekend.
“We were counting too much on wrestling’s history,” he told AFP. “We did not change enough for modern times.”
Similar events are scheduled for Los Angeles and Niagara Falls, FILA said, where women from Canada, the US and Ukraine will compete.