Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Saving The Olympic Ideal

I began writing this post when the IOC voted to remove wrestling as a core sport in the 2020 Olympics. There was a fierce reaction from wrestlers, the media and fans alike at the time.

Tomorrow, the 8 sports that are vying for the single spot in the 2020 Olympics will be presenting their cases to the IOC.  The other seven sports vying for a spot at the Olympics are:
  • baseball/softball
  • karate
  • roller sports
  • sport climbing
  • squash
  • wakeboarding
  • wushu
Following the presentations tomorrow, the IOC board members will vote on September 8.

There's a great article detailing and summarizing the 8 bids. Click here to read it.

I thought this was a good time to finish writing my thoughts on the subject of the wrestling omission.

The funny thing is that although I love and follow many sports, wrestling isn't one of them. I only say this because I feel that this makes my opinion more unbiased than say a wrestler or a supporter of wrestling. The argument that I keep hearing from wrestlers and wrestling fans is what a great sport wrestling is. There are videos showing highlights of wrestling over the years being shared. There is talk about the great Canadian wrestlers we have had.

I don't think that these arguments are valid in this decision. I would argue that anyone who competes in a sport could argue about how great their sport is and offer a highlight video.

Some of my favourite Olympic moments involved our Canadian wrestlers. This is an international decision so one country's love for a sport or its athletes is not relevant.

There are countless amazing sports that are not part of the Olympics. I think the argument of wrestling being an amazing sport is not the best to keep it in the Olympics.

I don't follow wrestling yet I was shocked and saddened to see it on the IOC chopping block. You can read my initial thoughts here in my post entitled "Is It A Sad Day For Olympics Sports?". I talked in this post about the decision to not include wrestling as possibly being a monetary or political decision.

In that post, I asked the question:  "So once, they decide to keep the modern pentathlon, how in the world do they get to wrestling as the sport to remove?" (Rumour had modern pentathlon being removed from the 2020 Olympics)

This post is about that question. How could they come up with removing wrestling as the solution?

There is a lot of tweets about #SaveOlympicWrestling but for me, it's not only about saving wrestling as an Olympic sport but saving the Olympic ideal. If the IOC saves wrestling but then gets rid of triathlon which encompasses three original sports, I don't believe it's any better.

The decision for me is about saving the Olympic creed Pierre de Coubertin originally began the Modern Olympics for:
"The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic ideal is about being "Faster, Higher, Stronger". The Olympic ideal is about unifying the five inhabited continents as represented by the Olympic rings.

Wrestling represents the Olympic ideal. That is why it should be saved.

If they save wrestling as a core sport, will they then try to remove one of the other core sports that embodies the Olympic ideal?

Why did they decide to cut the 26 core sports to 25 and have 3 floating sports? Why not 26 core sports and 2 floating sports (or more floating sports)? Is 28 the absolute maximum sports?

Is their vision to have various sports come and go? Doesn't it just complicate things for sports to come and go?

I'm not sure how I feel about floating sports.  I would prefer to review the existing sports every 20 years or so to evaluate the relevance of existing sports and how the sporting world is evolving. A sport gets removed once it is obsolete or irrelevant (not because it's not bringing in enough money). I don't like the idea of removing a sport for a few Games and then bringing it back. I don't like the idea of adding a sport that won't stay although I don't mind having more than 28 sports. I don't like the idea of adding a sport for money or celebrity.

For now, let's accept the decision of 25 core sports and discuss which of the 26 core sports should be removed (instead of wrestling) or better said, which sports should be saved? Golf and Rugby 7's are upcoming floating sports and are not considered for removal in this discussion.

Since the inception of the Modern Olympic Games in 1896, sports have been added and removed. The Olympic Games started with 8 sports. For the next 40 years, it added and removed various sports.

I feel that the original sports of Artistic Gymnastics, Athletics, Cycling (Road & Track), Fencing, Shooting, Swimming, Weightlifting and Wrestling should not be removed unless the sport becomes completely irrelevant and obsolete. Tennis was an original sport but was dropped between 1928 and 1988. These original sports are still relevant and popular around the world.

I would start by saving these 8 sports.

In 1948 there were 17 sports: basketball, canoeing, football, field hockey, boxing, equestrian, football, modern pentathlon, sailing and the remaining original sports of artistic gymnastics, athletics, cycling (road and track), fencing, shooting, swimming, weightlifting and wrestling.

Since 1948, sports have only been added (with the exception of Judo that was dropped in 1968 then re-added in 1972 and baseball/softball being added in the 90's then dropped in 2012). In chronological order from oldest to newest, the sports added are:
  • volleyball 1964
  • archery and handball 1972
  • table tennis and tennis 1988
  • badminton 1992
  • taekwondo and triathlon 2000
  • rugby 7's and golf (not core sports) 2016
There have also been events added to existing sports like rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming in 1984, canoe/kayak slalom in 1992, mountain biking and beach volleyball in 1996, trampoline and synchronized diving in 2000 and BMX Cycling in 2008 being the most recent additions.

I think rather than omitting an original sport dating back to the Ancient Games like wrestling, the IOC should have looked at the newer sports that were added.

Is the Olympic Games a tradition or should it try to keep up with current times?

I feel that it should be both. They should keep tradition yet at the same time keep current enough so that the interest grows.

I feel the seventeen sports of 1948 should be kept (so long as they are not obsolete or irrelevant).

This doesn't resolve the issue that the IOC have. They want to keep a total of 28 sports. If they keep wrestling, then there is no room for the new sports trying to be included which I think is unfortunate because there are some sports that I would like to see added to the Olympics.

If I was a member of the IOC, what would I vote for?

#1 Save the original 8 sports (meaning wrestling)
#2 Save the 17 sports that existed since 1948 (keep tradition).
#3 Review recently added sports along with the sports vying to be included for 2020.

The Olympics are not the X-Games. I understand that money (sponsorship/viewership) has to be a consideration in the IOC's decisions but I don't believe that it should be the only driving force. The Olympics are a tradition. The Olympics encompass the amateur athlete ideal. The sports represented should reflect that.

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