Actor Billy Baldwin, rallying Hollywood to support the endangered sport of Olympic wrestling, will lead a showbiz contingent that will attend a rare meet between U.S. and Iranian national teams on May 19 at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles.
The International Olympic Committee in February voted to strip wrestling of its guaranteed spot in the Summer Games, and its future beyond the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is uncertain.
The event in Los Angeles, United 4 Wrestling, will mark the first time in more than 30 years that American and Iranian Olympic teams will compete head-to-head. It’s designed to focus attention on the global campaign to keep wrestling -- an Olympic sport since ancient times — in the Games.
Groups backing wrestling and several other sports, including baseball/softball, will lobby the IOC this month for inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 Summer Olympics, with a final decision expected in September.
Baldwin wrestled on his high school team in Massapequa, N.Y., and then for two years at Binghamton University. He is serving as the Hollywood head of the Committee to Preserve Olympic Wrestling and organizing a series of public service announcements and activities on behalf of USA Wrestling.
“You can take the young man out of wrestling. But you can’t take wrestling out of the young man,” Baldwin told the Associated Press in a recent interview.
Among those also expected to attend the May 19 event are Tom Arnold, Mario Lopez, Matthew Modine, Jay Mohr, Nate Parker and, from the world of mixed martial arts, Chael Sonnen and Randy Couture.
Prominent musicians Ali Akbar Moradi, the Kurdish master of the tanbur, or Kurdish lute, and fellow Iranian virtuoso Abbas Bakhtiari will provide classical Persian music and songs honoring the traditions of wrestling.
And young wrestlers from California, including two 9-year-old girls, will demonstrate their abilities in a series of exhibitions before the seven USA-Iran matches.
Khosrow Semnani, an Iranian-American philanthropist, is the principal sponsor of United 4 Wrestling. Studies show that more than 500,000 Iranian-Americans live in Los Angeles County, the largest population of people of Iranian descent living outside Iran.
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