* FILA to vote on new president in May
* Body promises to make sport more attractive (Adds details, quotes and byline)
By Gennady Fyodorov
MOSCOW, March 9 (Reuters) - The world wrestling federation (FILA) will hold an extraordinary congress in May to elect a new president as the ancient sport battles to maintain its place on the Olympic programme.
“FILA will hold its extraordinary Congress on May 18 in Moscow to elect a new president and discuss a variety of issues concerning keeping the sport in the Olympic Games,” the sport’s governing body said on its website (www.fila-official.com).
Last month, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), made a surprise recommendation to drop wrestling from the Olympic programme in 2020.
The sport, which featured in the first modern Olympics in 1896 and every Games since apart from 1900, has joined seven other candidates battling for one spot in a revamped programme.
The world wrestling community, outraged by the decision, put the blame largely on FILA chief Raphael Martinetti, forcing the Swiss to resign and naming Serbian Nenad Lalovic as acting president.
The Moscow congress will be held days before the IOC executive board meets in St Petersburg to determine which of the eight sports will go forward to the vote at the full IOC session in Buenos Aires in September.
“The last thing our sport needs is to have a power struggle within FILA,” Russian wrestling chief Mikhail Mamiashvili told Reuters on Saturday.
“That is why FILA’s executive board was almost unanimous in its decision to support Nenad Lalovic in his bid to become FILA president,” added the 1988 Olympic champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, who now sits on the FILA executive board.
“It was one of the rare occasions when different nations, such as the United States, Russia, Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, have joined forces in efforts to keep wrestling on the Olympic programme. This is our number one priority.”
In Moscow, FILA will discuss possible rule changes and new uniforms to make wrestling more attractive to fans and television audiences. The federation has also promised to give athletes a more active role in the decision-making process.
“It’s time for us to utilise the passion and knowledge of our athletes, both men and women,” Lalovic told the FILA website. “They will help us to be better.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)