IOC loses its mind and soul, calls for wrestling cut from ’20 Olympics
“I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.”
“Running might be the first Olympic sport, but what were they running from? Wrestlers.”
-Kevin “The Ref” MacDonald
Wrestlng is as old as humankind. The creation story of numerous cultures centers on it. The Japanese trace their origin to a wrestling match between Takeminakata no Kami (representing man) vs. Takemikaza no Kami (representing God). In the 32nd chapter of Genesis (Old Testament) Jacob wrestled an angel (he lost). And in the United States, in Plymouth, the founding fathers wrestled braves from the friendly Massasoit tribe, as an early exercise in strong-arm diplomacy.
The first ancient Olympic Games was held in 776 BC. It began with a single event, the stade, a 200-yard foot race. This was the only event for the first 13 Games.
In the 18th Olympiad, in 708 BC, wrestling (pale) was added. In 648 BC mixed martial arts (pankration) was added.
With various additions, the Olympics continued for over 1,000 years, until in 394 AD, when it was banned by the Roman emperor Theodosius I, as part of his campaign to impose Christianity in Rome.
When the Olympics were reborn in Athens in 1896, wrestling again became a focus of the Games.
And now, in a despicable break with the tradition not just of the Olympics, but of humankind itself, Wrestling will in all likelihood not feature in the 2020 Olympic Games, after the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board made an unfathomable recommendation to drop the sport.
In so doing, the IOC voted to maintain field hockey, rugby, golf, taekwondo, and modern pentathlon. How many people can even name all the individual sports in modern pentathlon?
The answer to why modern pentathlon made it is presumably because Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president, is vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union and a member of the IOC board. Other sports presumably have political supporters, without concern for integrity.
Wrestling is now forced into a pool with wushu, wakeboarding, karate, rollersports, baseball/softball (they are making a joint bid), squash, and sports climbing as candidates for one empty spot in the list of 26 core sports.
Reuters reports the sad details.
It is unlikely that wrestling will get a reprieve when the IOC session in Buenos Aires votes on the recommendation in September.
“This is not the end of the process, this is purely a recommendation,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters after the executive board vote. “It is the session which is sovereign.”
“It was a decision to look at the core sports, what works best for the Olympic games. This was the best program for the 2020 Olympics. This is not about what’s wrong with wrestling but what is good for the Games.”
The Executive Board vote comes as a major surprise after other sports, including modern pentathlon and taekwondo, were seen at risk of losing out their place due to their lower global appeal.
Board members were given a report on each of the Olympic sports which provided details on 39 criteria such as popularity, finances, tickets sold and governance, before a secret vote.
“There were different rounds of voting necessary to come to this conclusion,” said IOC Vice President Thomas Bach. “It is an extremely difficult decision to take.”
“I cannot look into the heads of my colleagues. Such a decision is never based on one single reason. It is always a series of reasons. Of course different members take a different approach.”
“The common understanding is the purpose of this was to modernize, to look into the future of the Olympics,” added Bach, a potential IOC presidential candidate later this year.
While pentathlon and taekwondo have the support of senior IOC members, wrestling is not strongly represented in the IOC’s decision-making body.
IOC sources told Reuters that in the secret ballot there were four sports battling to avoid the cut: field hockey, modern pentathlon, taekwondo and wrestling.
“I am very surprised by the result,” board member and president of the International ice hockey federation Rene Fasel told Reuters. “Personally I do not know why but that is what the majority wanted.”
The IOC said 25 of the 26 Olympic sports were elected as core sports for the 2020 Games which will also include rugby and golf, making their first appearance in 2016.
The IOC executive board will meet in St Petersburg in May to determine which of these will be put to the vote in September.
Wrestling had 344 athletes in total at the London Olympics, competing in greco-roman and freestyle disciplines. Women’s events were introduced at the Athens 2004 Olympics.
Olympic exclusion will be a major blow to the sport’s popularity and financial stability as the Games are a global platform for the promotion of smaller, less established sports.
“It is very unfortunate,” Satpal Singh, coach of India’s two-time Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar, told Reuters. “It is being played from the first Olympics and is played all over the world.”
International Modern Pentathlon Union president Klaus Schormann welcomed the news.
“In the last few years we acted and took decisions to make our sport more telegenic and more compact,” Schormann told Reuters. “So every good news is further motivation for us.”
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