Nenad Lalovic, president of the international wrestling federation, offered his insights on a variety of wrestling-related topics including rule changes and FILA’s proposed new name, in a wide-ranging interview with Kathimerini, the Greek media organization posted online Tuesday, July 15.
The interview came on the heels of the 2014 World Beach Wrestling Championships, held earlier this month in Macedonia. Lalovic took the helm at FILA in early 2013 after the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee had originally decided to eliminate wrestling as a core sport of the Olympics after the 2016 Rio Games. The IOC later reversed itself, allowing freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling to be on the Olympic roster in 2020 and 2024..
Lalovic said what happened to FILA and Olympic wrestling is reflective of changes throughout the IOC.
“The IOC is working now to upgrade its governance and everything that goes with it,” said Lalovic. “It’s going to be a long process. FILA had to do it in less than a year! In eight months. It needed a shock, but you’d better have a shock! New president Thomas Bach is reforming the IOC in a very good way; that does not mean the former president, Jacques Rogge was not doing a good job. But the times go on and you need to adjust every day. I said the same thing to colleagues from other international federations, everyone needs to do the same in their federations. Especially in terms of democratization. It’s not like 10 years ago, even five years from now. Times are changing very fast and we have to be ready for things before they happen.”
“The rules have been revolutionized, but we have not changed anything of the spirit of wrestling,” Lalovic continued. “We now want to improve the technique of the sport.”
“The first step is with cadets, as they cannot fight any more on the ground (par terre), they have to stand up all the time. This is for two reasons: The first is they are not sufficiently developed to take their opponent from the ground and lift him up, they are only up to 17 years old, and the second is that it gives us an opportunity to improve their technique while standing. With the time we have lost the technique that wrestlers have when they are standing, but we are going to restore it. It does not seem to be a big step, but it is a huge step. It is going to change wrestling completely, with much more technique.”
When asked if amateur wrestling should model itself after the success of mixed martial arts, Lalovic was emphatic, saying, “MMA is not the solution. We will surprise you next year, by the presentation of the sport. We are not going to copy-paste other sports. We want to be original, we are an original sport. We are completely different.”
Wrestling with other issues
Lalovic addressed a number of other issues still confronting FILA. Towards the top of that list is the proposed identity makeover that would change the federation’s name to United World Wrestling, along with a new logo expected to be unveiled this fall.
“Changing the name is a different approach to the way FILA is known in the world,” Lalovic said. “The current acronym is in French, but it is not a popular abbreviation as it was in the 1960s. I would like that everybody knows from the name of the federation what it does. That is what ‘United World Wrestling’ means. It shows it embraces all forms of wrestling.”
Lalovic also intends to expand wrestling from eastern Europe to the rest of the continent, saying, “The only major national championship in western Europe is in Germany. In the last European championship there was a medal even for Austria, Ireland and Great Britain. That’s besides spreading it to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand for instance.”
With all these issues, Lalovic has not lost sight of the need to restore wrestling to Olympic core status.
“My focus now is to prepare wrestling for the IOC review in 2017 when it will decide which sports will be included in the core and which in the additional program. I want wrestling to be a core sport in 2017 so that we never speak again about whether we will be on the program or not,” said Lalovic. “That is possible only if you are updating and upgrading the sport on a daily basis. Remember it was a core sport for 3,000 years and in one morning we lost it, but that was the result of our work, total negligence.”