Photo courtesy of sxc.hu.
Michael Gates, Assistant Online Editor
As you’ve probably heard by now, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided in December that wrestling should not be included as a core sport of the 2020 summer Olympics. As a result, the sport now hangs in the balance with the likes of squash, wakeboarding, inline skating and wushu among others vying for a spot as an additional sport at the games.
Yes, you read that right. One of the original sports of the Olympic games, a sport that has been played for thousands of years all across the world, is now placed in the same category as wushu. How can a sport that most people don’t even know exists be contending for the same spot as one with the international prestige of wrestling?
The IOC’s decision was made as part of a secret ballot among its 15-member executive board. It is still not entirely clear why they ended up with this verdict, especially if you look at the evaluation criteria of what they require for inclusion. One main factor that the committee looks at is the universality of the sport, and wrestling meets this need with ease. Seventy-one different countries had wrestlers compete last year in London.
Sure, wrestling may not be as great of a spectator sport as track or basketball, but that should not be reason enough to drop one of the quintessential staples of the Olympics. Just because the ratings are lower for wrestling does not mean the IOC should feel the need to cut it from the program entirely. I never knew the IOC was focused more on its TV ratings than the actual competition itself.
Since there is no real professional wrestling, the Olympic Games are truly the pinnacle of the sport. It is a chance for amateur athletes from all around the world to showcase their skills and see who is the best of the best. This is exactly what the Olympic Games are all about. Wrestlers don’t compete to make money or be famous; they compete so that one day, their years of grueling training will pay off, and they will have the opportunity to represent their country at the Olympics. With that being said, the IOC is on the verge of crushing this dream for wrestlers all around the world.
One interesting result of this jaw-dropping decision is that China, Russia, Iran and the United States are now placed in a position where their interests are the same. Although they are often political adversaries, the countries now share the same mutual goal of saving Olympic wrestling. A multilateral effort to promote wrestling and save its spot in the games could be an option for these countries where wrestling is popular.
Although the sport has taken a severe blow with the initial decision of the IOC to not include it as a core sport, it still has an opportunity to make the games. The IOC will convene again in September in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it will have the deciding vote on which of the borderline sports will make the final cut. They will be choosing only one sport from that shortlist.
The IOC has one last chance to make things right. I can only hope they make the responsible and logical choice by saving wrestling. If they don’t, they’d not only be damaging the committee’s credibility, but the credibility of the Olympics as a whole.