The International Olympic Committee recently announced that it would be dropping wrestling from the Olympics beginning in 2020. The decision was made after several rounds of secret balloting. The board conducted the vote after reviewing 39 different criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and popularity.
This decision marks the removal of one of the oldest sports in Olympic history. Wrestling was one of the events held at the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. It’s also one of the oldest sports in history, period. Wrestling has been found in many cultures over the years, including Egyptian and Babylonian, and is even referenced in Homer’s The Iliad.
For instance, one of the things that makes soccer so popular in third-world countries is the common idea that all you need is a makeshift ball and goals in order to have a game. The parallel to wrestling can be made because all you need is two willing combatants to participate. Wrestling is one of the most primitive sports in the world because of this fact, and this is the reason why wrestling can trace its roots back so far.
One of the most shocking parts of this decision, other than dropping one of the original Olympic sports, is the events that were chosen to remain instead of wrestling. The final group of voting included the modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey. No offense to field hockey or the modern pentathlon, but I fail to see how these sports better fit the criteria that the IOC reviewed before making its decision.
I can’t recall the last time I ever saw either of these events on television. I must be missing one of ESPN’s 500 channels that regularly broadcasts the modern pentathlon. I also didn’t know that field hockey is captivating the eyes of viewers across the world.
While I understand that television ratings are only one of the criteria used, I can only assume that it was one of the larger factors when deciding. The pessimist inside me is gently whispering, “Follow the money.” The Olympics, just like any other league or association, makes money. And this decision seems like a financially motivated one.
By eliminating wrestling, the IOC will now be able to add another sport by the end of the year. Wrestling will now have to apply with seven other sports to be included in the 2020 Olympics. These sports include baseball and softball, plus karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu.
I’m sorry, but what the hell does roller sports even mean? Rock climbing is going to produce more interest in the Olympics than wrestling? I could find fault in every one the proposed sports that are aiming to debut at the 2020 Olympics.
Interestingly, one of the first athletes to speak out about his displeasure in the IOC dropping wrestling was NFL wide receiver Roddy White, and he may just have said it best on Twitter.
“IOC come on seriously wrestling is a sport that almost every country does and you drop it I’m pissed #saveolympicwrestling”.