IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) Tough tensions between Russia and the U.S. are seeping over into the sports world and a wrestling event in eastern Iowa. Today, Russia announced it's expelling 60 American diplomats in retaliation for a similar move the U.S. made.
Russia has now said it might stay out of the Freestyle World Cup because athletes haven't gotten their visas yet.
The Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson released a statement in part saying,"the failure to issue visas to the Russian athletes is a gross violation on the part of the United States of its obligations as a host country to international competitions. It is a case of direct and open discrimination with regard to the team of one of the participating countries."
But, an organizer and former Olympian told TV9 today they want Russia to be part of the competition.
"We have ferocious battles on the mat but we come back and shake hands," said Dan Gable.
Olympic gold medalist and former Hawkeye coach Dan Gable has a long history of visiting Russia for wrestling competitions. He says, in person, the Americans and Russians have gotten along and that now is no time to bring claims of discrimination into the ordeal.
"We battle a lot politically but I think if we keep politics and sports separate we actually make ground for both countries," said Gable.
The Russian statement claiming the U.S. is trying to "eliminate strong rivals" such as them but organizers say the opposite is true.
"We want to wrestle the best countries in the world so we're really hopeful that this can be resolved and that they can be here," said Iowa City and Coralville Convention and Visitor's Bureau President Josh Shamberger.
"We're going to have a good event, it's just, how good?" said Gable.
Schamberger says it comes down to procrastination on Russia's part.
"All of the nations that will be here next week have known since last August that they had qualified and would be participating in the World Cup so it wasn't really until this week that the Russian Wrestling Federation started to request their visa," said Shamberger.
"Maybe they outta figure things out ahead of time but who knows the full story? I know we're having the World Cup and we're going to have eight teams here. I guess we're going to have some replacements," said Gable.
Schamberger says they've been reaching out to the state department to get it resolved but he says it doesn't look good