Wrestling has tight grip on Olympics spot, says official

The future of wrestling as an Olympic sport has been under debate

Wrestling will never lose its place in the Olympics and talk about a dive in popularity is "all wrong", the sport's vice-president Akhroldjan Ruziev told AFP.

Wrestling's Olympic future was in serious doubt when the International Olympic Committee dropped it in 2013 from the 2020 Games, before reversing the decision.

But Ruziev told AFP that the millennia-old sport, a staple of the original Olympics in ancient Greece, will only grow under the United World Wrestling (UWW), the name which the rebranded governing body assumed in 2014.

"Wrestling is in a very comfortable position. All that data about the falling viewers in wrestling during the (Olympic) Games was all wrong," Uzbekistan's Ruziev, a former Soviet wrestler, said at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

"The organisation has gone through a big change. Change for the better. We have an office now in four, five important centres and things are looking bright as ever."

He added that the aborted move by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to drop wrestling was "all political", without elaborating.

"Sport is all about politics now. Country by country, it's all politics," Ruziev said while insisting that the UWW and IOC are working hand-in-hand to take wrestling forward.

Ruziev said that wrestling, unlike other fighting sports, is not looking at any link-up with Mixed Martial Arts to boost its popularity, but was instead concentrating on a different venture: beach wrestling, which is performed in a ring on sand.

"We are the going to expand the sport through beach wrestling. It's quick, offers an interesting fight and it's very nice," he said.

"We had the world championship and Europe championship this year and they were very successful... Who knows, the Indian wrestling chief is here, let's get it down to Goa," he said with a smile.