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Wrestling chief steps down after Olympics mulls pulling sport

By Joe Sterling, CNN
updated 1:45 PM EDT, Sun September 8, 2013
Raphael Martinetti, the president of wrestling's international federation, has resigned.
Raphael Martinetti, the president of wrestling's international federation, has resigned.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Raphael Martinetti stepped down to give others a chance to fight for wrestling in 2020 Games
  • The sport has an uphill battle for inclusion in the 2020 Games
  • Wrestling is viewed as an iconic Olympic sport

(CNN) -- The president of wrestling's international federation has resigned after the Olympics recommended dropping the sport from the 2020 Summer Games, the group said Saturday.

Raphael Martinetti's departure was announced in Phuket, Thailand, at a meeting of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles.

The official stepped down to give another leader the chance to fight the Olympics' decision, a FILA statement said. Nenad Lalovic, a FILA official, has been chosen as acting president.

The executive board of the International Olympic Committee announced its proposal on Tuesday.

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"Wrestling will now join the seven shortlisted sports -- baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu (a Chinese martial art) -- vying for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic program as an additional sport," the Olympic committee said in a statement.

The move sparked an international outcry and surprise. It prompted a number of the federation's delegates at the Phuket meeting to hold Martinetti responsible for the widely unpopular decision. Martinetti is Swiss. Lalovic is Serbian.

At a meeting in Russia in May, representatives from the eight sports will make presentations for inclusion in the 2020 Games. The executive board will recommend one. The final word will come in a vote at the Olympic committee's general session in Argentina in September.

The host city for the 2020 Summer Games will be chosen in September. Istanbul, Tokyo and Madrid are the finalists.

The sport will be played at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Wrestling is seen as an iconic Olympic sport with a long tradition.

It was an integral part of the ancient Olympics and has been a competition in all but one of the modern Games since their inception in 1896, missing only the 1900 Games in Paris.

There are two types of Olympic wrestling competitions -- freestyle and Greco-Roman.

The governing body for the sport in the United States was so appalled at the decision that it started a Facebook page, "Keep Wrestling in the Olympics." Opponents of the decision also took to Twitter, posting with the hashtag #SaveOlympicWrestling.

Wrestling is a popular high school and college sport in the United States. It is immensely popular in many other countries, such as Russia, Turkey and Iran.

CNN's Brad Lendon contributed to the report

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