Sitting at my desk, just about ready to leave the office and start class (I teach), my cell phone rings. I pick it up checking to see who might be calling (with the likelihood that I will just let them leave a message) and notice it is my brother. Rare to get a call from him on my cell phone during the day, and thinking that there may be some kind of emergency, I answer saying, “What’s up?”
My brother, with urgency, says “Did you hear?” Now he has my interest:
Me: “Hear What?”
Brother: “That they cut wrestling from the Olympics”
Me: “Yes…we have been talking about it in the office…how crazy is that?”
Brother: “Unbelievable…are they serious?”
Me: “Have to go to class…will call you later.”
Needless to say we did have a pretty lengthy discussion later as my brother is heavily vested in wrestling, or more accurately grappling, as he is the strike coach for Team Curran out in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
From my perspective, this idea of cutting a sport from the Olympic venue that is so steeped in Olympic tradition simply boggles my mind. It was bad enough when they cut softball, destroying the dreams of many a young promising softball player, taking away from them the opportunity to represent their country playing a sport they love on the biggest athletic stage in the world. Sure…there are worse things…but, from a sports perspective, this is a tragedy.
The same is true for wrestling, a sport that has been a part of the Olympics since 1896. Seriously…how does one do that in good conscience? Isn’t part of the mystique of the Olympic Games based in its traditions? And what about the athletes…what about them, their hopes and dreams?
So how does a committee come up with such a controversial decision that seems so out of character to the foundations of the Olympics? Who the heck knows…I certainly could not find it, even when looking at criteria published in a good number of media sources using information they gleaned from the Associated Press.
“According to IOC documents obtained by the AP, wrestling ranked "low" in several of the technical criteria, including popularity with the public at the London Games - just below 5 on a scale of 10. Wrestling sold 113,851 tickets in London out of 116,854 available.
“Wrestling also ranked "low" in global TV audience with a maximum of 58.5 million viewers and an average of 23 million, the documents show. Internet hits and press coverage were also ranked as low.
“The IOC also noted that FILA - the international wrestling federation - has no athletes on its decision-making bodies, no women's commission, no ethics rules for technical officials and no medical official on its executive board.”
Ok…I get that the IOC may want “athletes on its decision-making bodies,” and “women's commission,” and believe it important for the FILA to have “ethics rules for technical officials” and “medical official[s] on its executive board.” But to use that as part of the criteria for cutting the whole sport out of the Olympics…don’t get that at all.
And it gets worse!!!
"Modern pentathlon also ranked low in general popularity in London, with 5.2 out of 10. The sport also ranked low in all TV categories, with maximum viewership of 33.5 million and an average of 12.5 million.
"FILA has 177 member nations, compared to 108 for modern pentathlon."
So, just using the criteria and numbers presented, how does wrestling get cut before the modern pentathlon when wrestling’s member nations number 69 more than the pentathlon, when their maximum TV Audience stats are 25 million more and almost double when looking at average viewership.
Really…how does that happen? Is there something else, some other agenda going on behind the scenes? Me? Not so sure, just that the numbers don’t seem to add up…at least not from what I have seen.
Personally, I don’t like to see any sport cut from the Olympic agenda. Don’t like to see opportunity taken away from anyone when that opportunity is well deserved…and wrestling’s stake in the Olympics goes well above and beyond well deserved.
And I know the feeling. I know what it is like to want the opportunity to represent one’s country in a sport or event one loves on the Olympic stage. My sport of gymnastics is one where the rules, in my day, did not foster any opportunity for competition on a single event. In fact…if track were run the same as gymnastics, you may never have heard of Usain Bolt as there would only be openings for decathlon competitors.
This thing with wrestling…this is much worse, as the IOC is removing an opportunity that once existed. One steeped in tradition. Nope…not in favor of this one bit. It is a dream-killing decision that will, undoubtedly, hurt wrestling participation all across the world. Let’s hope the IOC comes to their senses, as I am sure wrestling will not take this lying down.
And here is a little bit of advice for the IOC…one of the few people you do not want to pick a fight with is a wrestler. You do that without the skill to do so…you will find yourself back flat to the mat.
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