Wednesday, February 20, 2013

unpinned

I was one of the people who reacted strongly upon hearing that wrestling may be dropped from the 2020 Olympic Games.

The reasons given for dropping wrestling made monetary sense and it is a fact that staging the Olympic Games places a massive and often unrecoverable financial burden on the host nation.  Wrestling did not make the cut of the 26 core sports based on analysis of more than three dozen criteria including popularity, television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policies, and global participation.

But are they really telling us that wrestling was less popular than trampoline and  race walking?!  And let's please revisit why the modern pentathlon, a clearly less popular sport, didn't face the ax.  The IOC assures us that the son of Samaranch's position as vice president of the International Modern Pentathlon Union had nothing to do with its preservation.  And heck, it's not even a pentathlon.

I hope that wrestling governing bodies can come up with a way to adapt the sport so that it can continue to compete.  Maybe a reworking of policies and some investments to promote global participation can save it.  They could take some pointers from rugby and lacrosse, which are fast growing sports.  As thrilled as I am for rugby sevens to be on the Olympic list, I personally would choose wrestling over sevens for historic reasons.

Wrestling is one of the oldest sports played in the games (since the inaugural modern Olympics in 1896) and a form of it was also present in the ancient games since at least 708 BC.  I didn't understand the lack of popularity since it is a very popular sport at both high school and collegiate levels in the States.  I guess the rest of the world, with the exception of former Soviet nations, doesn't care so much.  I wonder what will happen to its popularity if it is permanently removed from the games; I imagine that a lot of kids take it up with Olympic aspirations.

If anything, reworking some of the policies to make wrestling appealing to the Olympics can help its popularity with fans.  The current scoring system is very hard to follow so at home television watchers  would appreciate changes that made it easier for us to determine the winner.  I hope that something can be done to return wrestling to the games.

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