A wrestling hunger strike is gaining international attention as an Olympic champion refuses to eat until his sport is placed back in the 2020 Games. Armen Nazaryan, an Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist and coach, is protesting the International Olympic Committee's recent decision to remove the sport.
The wrestling hunger strike began Sunday in response to the IOC's decision, which was made last month. The 38-year-old Nazaryan, who won his first medal for Armenia in 1996, his second for Bulgaria in 2000, and six European championships, will not eat anything for nearly three weeks.
"I am going on a hunger strike to protest the proposal of the Initiative Committee of the IOC. There have always been problems with the Olympic program and it is a mistake to remove wrestling from it. I am starting a hunger strike, I will only drink syrup. I will end the hunger strike for the European Championship starting on March 22 in Tbilisi," the wrestling coach stated to the Russian Wrestling Federation's website.
The wrestling legend pointed out that Greco-Roman wrestling has been a part of the modern Olympics since 1896, barring the 1900 Games in Paris.
"Wrestling has always been on the Olympics programme and it is not right to take it out. I sincerely hope that my action will convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to review its decision," Nazaryan continued.
The IOC, however, said that the reason for removing wrestling from the list of 26 core sports was to make room for another.
"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," Mark Adams, an IOC spokesman, told the Associated Press. "It's a not a case of what's wrong with wrestling, it is what's right with the 25 core sports."
Still, pressure is mounting on the IOC, as Valentin Yordanov, President of the Bulgarian Wrestling Federation, returned his Olympic medal in protest. Bulgaria has titles in wrestling, making it the country's most successful sport.
In addition, both Iran and the U.S.- known for being political and military foes- have united to protest the Olympic wrestling ban.