Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is it a sad day for Olympic sports?

The International Olympic Committee decided today to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics. I was shocked.

This decision makes no sense to me and so I felt the need to write about it while researching how this decision came about and whether my initial reaction is wrong and it does make sense.

Is understanding an IOC decision an oxymoron? Perhaps, but I need to try.

For the past few weeks, we've been hearing that modern pentathlon was at risk of losing its spot at the 2020 Olympics.
The original pentathlon dates back to the ancient Olympic Games and was modelled after the skills of the ideal soldier of that time. Modern pentathlon was invented by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, to simulate the experiences of a 19th century cavalry soldier.
(quote taken from Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games website)
I was saddened at the possibility of losing the modern pentathlon because I feel that there is an important place in the Olympics for it and perhaps the IOC agreed.

So once, they decide to keep the modern pentathlon, how in the world do they get to wrestling as the sport to remove?

It turns out that the decision isn't to remove wrestling, but to keep the other 25 core sports:

  1. acquatics (swimming, synchro, water polo and diving)
  2. archery 
  3. badminton 
  4. basketball 
  5. boxing 
  6. canoe/kayak 
  7. cycling 
  8. equestrian 
  9. fencing 
  10. field hockey 
  11. gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic, trampoline)
  12. handball 
  13. judo 
  14. modern pentathlon 
  15. rowing 
  16. sailing 
  17. shooting 
  18. soccer/football 
  19. table tennis 
  20. taekwondo 
  21. tennis 
  22. track and field 
  23. triathlon (swimming, biking, running) 
  24. volleyball 
  25. weightlifting 

Golf and rugby 7's are added for 2016 but not counted in the core 25. Starting in 2020, there will be 25 core sports and three floating sports. Every sport will be at risk as a committee reviews the 25 core sports and 3 floating sports to remove and add sports to keep the total number at 28. In the past to remove a sport, the committee needed 2/3 agreement. In the future, it requires 50% of the votes +1. Does this mean that we will see more traditional Olympic sports be dropped?

Wrestling will now be added to the list of sports trying to get included in 2020. Those sports include:

  • baseball/softball
  • karate
  • roller sports
  • sport climbing
  • squash
  • wakeboarding
  • wushu

Wrestling is a classic sport that has existed and evolved since ancient times. It is a sport that anyone from anywhere of any size can participate and excel in. It doesn't require a lot of money or a lot of resources or equipment.

Why would the IOC not protect wrestling? It is one of the original Olympic sports from the Ancient Olympic Games (along with boxing, equestrian events (chariot racing, riding), pankration, pentathlon (discus, javelin, jump, running, wrestling) and running

My first thought was that they want to bring in karate when they vote for the next sport to be included.

Is there room for wrestling, judo, taekwondo (added in 2000), boxing and karate? I have now learned that wushu is a martial art, so it's also in the same "fighting" category in my mind.

But of course, it's not as simple as spreading out the types of sports. Nothing is simple when it comes to the IOC. Unfortunately many people believe that the IOC is guided by money, politics and corruption. When these types of decisions are made, more suspicion is thrown towards the IOC. Being a huge Olympic fan, I don't like to see its organizing committee criticized.

So wrestling is potentially being dropped from the Olympics, is this something that happens often?

Going back chronologically, sports that have been dropped are baseball/softball in 2012, judo in 1968 (then added again in 1972), polo and handball in 1948 (handball added back in 1972), football in 1932 (and re-added in 1936).

In the last 100 years the only sports that have been dropped and not returned to the schedule are: baseball/softball (added in 1992/1996), polo and tug-of-war. Rugby had been dropped but is coming back in 2016.

Dropping a sport has been rare. Dropping an original yet still current sport like wrestling is huge news! No wonder the media and twitter are going crazy today. It's not a sport like polo or tug-of-war. Who in the wrestling world upset the IOC? Did wrestling make the least amount of money for the IOC? They are possible explanations if it's meant to be a lasting change.

Did the IOC not understand its history or just ignore it? Did they feel that newly added sports (going back chronologically to 1940) like taekwondo, triathlon, badminton, table tennis, tennis, archery (added in 1972 - was in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1920 and dropped in 1924), handball, judo and volleyball are more worthy of inclusion?

Just so I'm clear, I would be just as upset to see most of those sports go. If not wrestling, then which sport should go? This leads into a good tangent discussion that I will write about in a separate blog post.

It just shocks me to see a historical Olympic sport like wrestling be dropped.

The other explanation is that the IOC doesn't want the proposed sports to be added. By adding wrestling to that list, it has a better chance of beating out the proposed sports than perhaps Modern Pentathlon or table tennis could have.

Maybe they just want to know how much the Olympic community cares about wrestling.

Rise up wrestling fans and federations! The IOC are expecting you. 

I hope I'm right, otherwise it's a sad day for Olympic sports.

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