The news that wrestling may not feature in the 2020 Olympics has galvanised the wrestling fraternity in Delhi into action. After all, the biggest stars of the mat come from within a radius of 200km of the national capital.
New Delhi's Chhatrasal stadium is the headquarters, where hundreds of eager youth are trained by gurujis. They were all fired by the success stories of London Olympic winners—Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt. And more and more girls had taken up wrestling after the stunning debut of Geeta Phogat in London. As the wrestlers flourished on the banks of the otherwise deeply-polluted Yamuna, the Haryana and Delhi governments had announced ambitious programmes to identify gold medal winners for the next Olympics at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
But the move to drop wrestling came as a dampener, especially as the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is in a deep crisis. The International Olympic Committee still recognises the old association whose acting president is BJP leader V.K. Malhotra and secretary general Randhir Singh. But, work at the 'suspended' IOA is being carried out by the 'unrecognised' secretary general Lalit Bhanot, who has been charge sheeted in the Commonwealth Games scam and is now out on bail. The new president, Abhay Chautala, is busy with the legal battles of his father, Om Prakash Chautala, and brother, Ajay Chautala, who have been convicted in the Haryana teacher recruitment scam. Further, the Wrestling Federation of India itself has been suspended by the sports ministry for irregularities in the conduct of elections. The World Wrestling Federation is also riven with differences, after its president resigned.
As the sports administration leadership is in too deep a mess to act effectively, the wrestlers themselves have urged political parties to take up their cause at the government level. They lobbied hard with Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav (himself a wrestler in his youth) and BJP president Rajnath Singh. They want the government to lobby hard with the member countries of the Olympic movement to vote in favour of wrestling. They have also asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to pitch at world forums, for retaining wrestling as an Olympic event. Sports Minister Jitendra Singh has shown an interest, but is yet to take up the issue of the grapplers.