Elimination of Olympic Wrestling Exposes the DNA of the IOC
Need a laugh? Read the mission statement of the IOC (International Olympic Committee), and think about it in the context of the absurd decision they made to drop wrestling as an Olympic sport, beginning in 2020. It’s an explanation of its core values, using lots of buzz terms such as “celebration,” “values,” and “legacy.”
Its Mission Statement implies that the IOC represents everything good about international sport, and that the tradition of competition with honor is alive and well … that is, as long as a sport in question is profitable.
Let’s call the decision of the IOC to drop Olympic Wrestling what it is: A matter of dollars and cents … or really dollars and nonsense. For all the IOC leads us to believe that they literally carry the torch of competition in its purest form, it really comes down to how much money can be made once every four years. Wrestling was not drawing ratings or selling tickets. So, in an effort to maintain an atmosphere of elite selectivity, Wrestling was cut, while sports such as Modern Pentathlon – as opposed to Medieval Pentathlon – were allowed to stay.
There is nothing wrong with the IOC cutting sports to reflect market trends. This is why certain sports are included in the Olympics. Despite the fact that soccer’s World Cup is the pinnacle of the sport, the IOC sponsors soccer because it is the most popular sport in the world, so to not have soccer as an Olympic event would be ridiculous.
Ultimately, the IOC has a responsibility to make sure its offerings are what the public want , and it has a business to run, so eliminating a sport that is not making the financial cut is appropriate. However, there is a difference between cutting a sport that is not meeting market trends, and erasing an Olympic tradition. If Modern Pentathlon had been eliminated, the nature of the Olympic Games would not have changed because if you are reading this column, you probably have to summon Wikipedia to determine exactly what Modern Pentathlon is, and the difference between Modern Pentathlon, and ‘Old School Pentathlon.’
However, this is Wrestling, a sport that was competed back in ancient times when the Olympic Games were centered in Athens, Greece – and great philosophers were in attendance. Wrestling is an Olympic tradition of only slightly less prominence than the lighting of the torch.
Perhaps the elimination of Wrestling from the Olympics makes business sense. The sport is suffering tough times. After all, how many sports does the professional ‘version’ have absolutely nothing to do with its rendition at the amateur level? In the U.S., when we hear ‘Wrestling,’ most people think of The Rock before they understand that there is a form of Wrestling that has nothing to do with entrance music or WWE‘s Monday Night Raw.
Ultimately, we would likely not have an Olympics, and its billion dollar enterprise without Wrestling. Hundreds of years ago, Wrestling was so popular that it became a major part of the culture of the most civilized population on the planet, and we honor the contributions that ancient civilizations made to modern society by events such as Wrestling, and the Olympics itself.
To eliminate an Olympic tradition because Nike may not want to provide sponsorship is simply wrong, especially in light of the scandals we have seen during recent Olympics. In London, there was a scandal involving Badminton. It literally happened, and Sunday barbeques and physical education classes will never be the same. Yet still, Badminton will be in the Olympics in 2020.
As will Cycling, a sport so enveloped in corruption that they might as well allow Don King to promote the Tour de France.
But Wrestling will go. Despite all of the rhetoric from the IOC about being a form of sport that brings nations together, it is still a business venture, and the IOC has ratings to be concerned with. Let’s face it, if the IOC could put a Nike swoosh on gold medals, they would. Wrestling may represent everything good about international sport, but it just was not profitable enough.
The most unfortunate aspect of this decision is the human implication. First of all, when was the last time Iran and the United States agreed on anything? And since the Olympics are supposed to be on a mission to bring nations together, perhaps the IOC should consider that there are ramifications greater than business when it made this decision.
Furthermore, while preparation for Wrestling is intense, it is an equal opportunity competition. A developing country can be as successful in the Olympics as a developed country, a dynamic not necessarily present in all sports. However, we will soon not have the opportunity to enjoy this competition, but others will continue to have their proverbial moment in the sun.