With each passing year, I seem to have less and less faith in the governing body of the Olympics. Earlier today the IOC announced that while it would allow Modern Pentathlon to remain a part of the Olympic Games, it had voted to recommend removing wrestling from the Olympics, beginning with the 2020 Olympics (location yet to be determined).
I know. I had to re-read those words as well. Yes, the governing body of the Olympic movement has decided that wrestling, a sport which dates back to the Ancient Greek Games, does not belong in the Olympics. The sport, which has been a part of the modern-era Olympic Games since 1900, is now having to fight for reconsideration alongside baseball and softball (bidding jointly), karate, wushu, rollersports, wakeboarding, squash, and sports climbing. When the IOC meets in September, it will vote to either save wrestling, or admit one of the other seven candidates.
Reuters quoted IOC Vice-President Thomas Bach as saying, “The common understanding is the purpose of this was to modernize, to look into the future of the Olympics.” Listen, Mr. Bach, I’m all for modernizing where appropriate, such as zero tolerance for racism and gender discrimination, enhancing athletes’ safety, and encouraging sustainable Olympic Games. What I don’t support–and neither should anyone–is disrespecting history and tradition–especially by showing preference to sports which lack tradition, true athleticism, and those that fail to embody all other qualities of a true sport. What I also don’t condone is giving preference to sports which are “sexier” and encompass more “tricks” and daredevil elements, ignoring sports which require true athleticism–particularly one like wrestling, a sport that has been around for thousands of years.
The Modern-Day Olympic Games were born from a respect and admiration for tradition and the Ancient Games. The Olympics have survived for over 100 years due to a fairly balanced mix of tradition and modernization. Yet in recent years, IOC has been blinded by commercialism and greed rather than the ideals of the Olympic movement. I don’t care about ratings. I don’t care about what sells commercials. What I care about–what we all should care about– is preserving a sport that is a perfect blend of strength, patience, self-discipline, athleticism, and strategy (cauliflower ears and all).
It’s time to add wrestling to the endangered sports list. (And frankly, I think Modern Pentathlon should probably remain there as well.) But what worries me more is whether it’s time to add the Olympic Games to this list. I fear the Olympics’ existence in their purest form is threatened by a large number of predators which include members of the IOC. Will we act fast enough to save it from extinction?
Faster, Higher, Stronger.