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Olympics: Japan wrestling chief meets IOC inspectors

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Japan's wrestling boss Wednesday met International Olympic Committee inspectors evaluating Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Summer Games, but refrained from asking them to help his sport survive in the Olympics.

Tomiaki Fukuda was among those who expressed outrage after the IOC executive board recommended last month that wrestling be dropped from the 2020 programme.

That proposal prompted protests worldwide, with political foes Iran and the United States fighting together for the sport's survival in the Olympics.

Fukuda is both president of the Japanese Wrestling Federation and deputy head of Tokyo's Olympic bid committee. He told the 14-member IOC team Wednesday that his dual roles leave him caught between a rock and a hard place.

"I am in a very, very delicate position now in front of you, IOC members," he told the group at an arena planned as the venue for wrestling, taekwondo and fencing if Tokyo wins the 2020 Games.

"Therefore I can only say thank you very much" for coming, said Fukuda, also a vice president of the world wrestling governing body FILA.

Wrestling will now have to battle with seven non-Olympic sports for a spot in the 28-sport 2020 Games programme. The list, including baseball, softball and karate, is expected to be narrowed to three by the IOC executive board in May.

A final decision will be taken at the IOC general session in September in Buenos Aires, when the 2020 host city is chosen from Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.

The executive council of the Association of the National Olympic Committees (ANOC) met in Sydney Tuesday and unanimously backed the retention of wrestling in the Games, according to ANOC chief Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah.

"(There was) unanimous support for wrestling... and we will meet the IOC to discuss," IOC member Al-Fahad Al-Sabah told the Australian Associated Press.

In Tokyo, Japan's four wrestling gold medallists from last year's London Olympics -- three women and one man, including three-time women's 55kg champion Saori Yoshida -- also met the IOC team Wednesday.

"I'm praying that wrestling stays in the Olympics in 2020," Yoshida told reporters after the inspectors, including six voting IOC members, left the waterfront arena.

"Today we have to consider the bid. So this is very complicated and delicate," Fukuda told reporters later. "But just having the four gold medallists here leaves a good impression. We hope that they understood this."

About 300 young local wrestlers also lined the entrance to the arena, with some holding a banner that simply read "Wrestling".

Wrestling has been part of every modern Games, apart from in 1900.

The IOC team was inspecting Tokyo's existing and planned Olympic facilities on the third of their four-day tour. They will visit Madrid and Istanbul later this month.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130306/olympics-japan-wrestling-chief-meets-ioc-inspectors-1