By David Owen in Olympia

olympia-wrestlingJuly 21 - The sport of wrestling returned to its roots at the weekend, descending in numbers on the cradle of Olympism in south-west Greece as part of a drive to save its Olympic future.

An international wrestling competition, featuring athletes from as far afield as the United States and Brazil, took place, with finals staged outdoors in the evocative setting of the Olympic Academy.

This was just 500 metres from the area where Milo, the most famous wrestling champion of all, from Croton in what is now southern Italy, won six Olympic titles in the sixth century BC.

The most poignant moments came, though, when wrestlers from Wales and Albania, Germany and Greece, and others, gathered at the ancient palaistra, beside the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, to pledge their support in the Olympic survival struggle the sport now finds itself fighting.

On September 8, a sea and an ocean away in Buenos Aires, the 100-plus International Olympic Committee (IOC) members will decide which sport is allocated the final place on the sporting programme of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

save olympic wrestling olympiaWrestling is battling for a place on the 2020 Olympic sports programme

The choice is between the diverse trio of wrestling, squash and baseball-softball.

Lose and the 2016 wrestling competition in Rio de Janeiro will be a sombre affair, marking perhaps the last Olympic appearance of a sport that made its debut at Olympia in 708BC.

No wonder Nenad Lalovic, recently-elected President of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), normally a jovial figure, had grown solemn during his visit to the ancient Olympic site.

"I feel more obligation," he said when asked for a snap reaction.

"The burden is bigger on my back."

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