SPORTS WATCH | Wrestling Must Remain in the Summer Olympic Games
by Gus Jarvis
Feb 23, 2013 | 1397 views | 0 0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print

What could be the next event to grace our televisions set every four years, now that the International Olympic Committee is completely off its rocker? Speed tweeting? Extreme croquet? Staring contests? How about men’s basket weaving? (I’ve got my money on a local weaver who’s guaranteed to win gold.) Or an international Olympic chili cook-off?

If the IOC isn’t going to have anything to do with longstanding Olympic traditions, I say we take it as far as we can in making it resemble Bravo’s competition-laden Wednesday night lineup. Screw the sports and bring on the drama already, if that’s how it’s going to be.

Please excuse my sarcasm. I am still dumbfounded at the IOC’s recent decision to cut both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling out of the Summer Olympic Games, in 2020.

At first, I thought the two talking heads on the sports talk radio program were joking when they said wrestling was being cut from the Olympics. How the hell can they cut wrestling from the Olympics? After the footrace, wrestling is the most basic form of competition of all time. You need strength, endurance and technique to be a good wrestler. You don’t need gloves. You don’t need a stick. You don’t need a ball. It’s one on one, and it is the most basic form of competition. Am I right? Reference Ovid’s Metamorphosis, or even The Epic of Gilgamesh, if you don’t believe me.

So in our day of super pipes, energy drinks and triple-McTwists-backscratchers, members of the IOC decided they needed to make room for these new athletes competing in these new popular sports. Snowboarding has been added to the Winter Games to attract a younger audience. Golf and rugby are returning to the Summer Games in 2016. Other sports like rollerblading, rock climbing and wakeboarding are also being considered for future games.

Now, I don’t doubt that attracting younger athletes and new sports is a good idea. Keep the Olympics young and exciting. TV contracts and sponsorships will continue to soar. But to do so by cutting wrestling is simply boneheaded. You can’t cut the sport that may have been one of the few that started it off so many centuries ago.

According to The New York Times, the decision to drop the sport was made by secret ballot by the IOC’s 15-member board at its headquarters in Switzerland. The exact vote (and members’ reasons) for putting wrestling on the chopping block were not given.

There was something fishy going on, I’d say. One of the sports surviving the committee’s recent vote was the modern pentathlon (a five-event sport that includes horseback riding, pistol shooting, running, fencing, and swimming). According to The Times, the modern pentathlon was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Games, and it is currently supported by Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., son of a former I.O.C. president (and a member of its executive board).

“This wasn’t a decision of thought; this was a decision of friends,” Mike Novogratz, chairman of the United States Wrestling Foundation, told The Times.

“I think this is a really stupid decision,” added Olympic historian David Wallechinsky. It “was in the ancient Olympics…It has been in the modern Olympics since 1896. In London, 29 different countries won medals. This is a popular sport.”

I don’t want to pick on any one particular sport, as I know my interests may not coincide with the sporting interests of athletes around the world, but when I look at the list of 28 core sports set for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, there are certainly some better candidates for cutting by 2020 other than wrestling.

How about badminton? Do we really love the shuttlecock as much as we think we do? How about handball (don’t we already have soccer)? Table tennis? Hell, I’d be willing to cut basketball. We have plenty of basketball action on TV on a yearly basis. Do we really need it as an Olympic sport? For me, no. But I am sure there are others who would argue to the death on that one.

The point here is that there are plenty of sports that should be cut ahead of wrestling. Wrestling and running competitions are the genesis of the Olympic games. They must remain in the Games if there is going to ever be any reference to the history of competition as we know it.

The committee said in a statement following its decision that it wanted to ensure that the Olympics remained “relevant to sports fans of all generations.”

For those IOC members who don’t believe wrestling is still popular among young people: Please come to the Colorado State High School Wrestling Tournament at the Pepsi Center this weekend. It won’t take long to see that there is an army of young men who are incredible athletes – and fully immersed in the sport.

I especially invite them to Saturday evening’s lineup of wrestling at the State Tournament. They need to see the Parade of Champions, which is followed by championship matches in each weight class. They would see a whole lot of dedication, a ton of specified wrestling technique, plenty of heart and plenty of physical ability. Yes, wrestling is still popular among younger generations. Wrestling is alive and well.

Perhaps what would be most important for those IOC members to see at the Pepsi Center this weekend is the notion that one of those athletes competing in the spotlight had dreams of wrestling for Team USA in 2020. That is, until, the IOC cut it out for reasons we may never really understand.

Following their decision to lower the alcohol volume from 90 proof to 84 proof, officials at Makers’ Mark announced Monday that they had made a terrible mistake, and would once again be bottling 90 proof bourbon. It was a stupid idea, and they quickly saw the error of their ways. It’s not too late for members of the IOC to save face and do the same. 

Cutting wrestling from the Olympics is a stupid, stupid idea.

 

 

gjarvis@watchnewspapers.com

Twitter: @Gus_Jarvis

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