By Duncan Mackay

Toghrul AsgarovMarch 13 - Wrestling will be part of the inagurual 2015 European Games when it takes place in Baku after the new leadership at the sport's world governing body reassured organisers that they did want it to be included on the programme.

Wrestling was last month controversially dropped from the list of core Olympic sports after Rio 2016 but its place in the European Games was in jeopardy mainly because the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA) were resistant to being part of it.

Pat Hickey, President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), had revealed last month that FILA had turned down three requests for a meeting about its inclusion in Baku 2015.

But Nenad Lalovic, the interim President appointed to replace Raphaël Martinetti following the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Committee to axe the sport, made it one of his first priorities to contact Hickey to tell him that they did want to be included.

"We sent a letter that we were willing to participate," Lalovic told insidethegames.

"I was informed upoin arriving in FILA that Mr Hickey and the EOC never received an answer from [Europe].

"We are ready to participate in any competition connected with the IOC, of course."

A letter of understanding has now been signed between FILA and EOC.

FILA signs letter with EOC to include wrestling at Baku 2015Interim FILA President Nenad Lalovic (right) signs a letter to include wrestling in the European Games, watched by Tzenov Tzeno (left) of the European Wrestling Council and Pierce O'Callaghan of the European Olympic Committees

"I'd like to thank the EOC for its constructive approach in welcoming the sport of wrestling into the inaugural European Games in Baku," said Lalovic.

"This is important to our sport and it will take place in one of the most passionate wrestling countries in the world. "

Wrestling is one of Azerbaijan's most popular and successful sports.

Of the 26 Olympic medals the country has won since its debut in the Games at Atlanta in 1996, 14 have come in wrestling, including four of Azerbaijan's six golds. 

Sharif Sharifov at London 2012Azerbaijan's Sharif Sharifov (in blue) in action at London 2012, where he won the Olympic gold medal in the the men's freestyle wrestling 84kg

It was wrestlers who helped Azerbaijan achieve their best ever Olympic performance at London 2012, where they ranked 30th overall with a total of 10 medals, seven of them in wrestling.

The total included two gold medallists, Toghrul Asgarov (pictured top) in the men's freestyle 60 kilogram and Sharif Sharifov in the men's freestyle 84kg.

"Wrestling is one of our most important national sports and we are confident that wrestling contests in Baku will become one of the main events of these Games," said Azad Rahimov,  Azerbaijan's Minister of Youth and Sport.

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