ST PETERSBURG, Russia Russian President Vladimir Putin backed a return to the Olympics for wrestling on Thursday, saying it was one of the fundamental sports of the Games.
Wrestling was controversially taken off the 2020 Olympics program in February by the International Olympic Committee but was thrown a lifeline on Wednesday, making a shortlist along with squash and baseball/softball for one spot at the 2020 Games.
"I know that the final decision will be made later. But now we have decided on the three sports, there is also wrestling, a favorite in 209 countries around the world," Putin said in a meeting with IOC President Jacques Rogge.
"Hopefully, the decision will ultimately be fair, reasonable and will serve to strengthen and develop the Olympic movement, which was based always on ancient tradition, and wrestling as we know, is one of the fundamental sports, traditional for the Olympic Games," said Putin.
Russia is one of the sport's powerhouses and wrestling has been part of all modern Games since 1896, apart from 1900.
The IOC will elect the new sport at its session in September.
Putin had earlier attended a sports conference, touring the stands with Rogge and getting a glimpse of the Sochi 2014 winter Games medals, unveiled earlier in the day.
The Russian president had also helped his country land their first ever winter Olympics, appearing and speaking in English at Sochi's final presentation at the IOC session in Guatemala in 2007.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Justin Palmer)