WRESTLING OUT OF OLYMPICS

By Madhu Kshirsagar

25 Feb 2013photo-2

The International Olympic Committee has decided to drop Wrestling as an Olympic sport from the year 2020.  Yes, you heard it right.

Wrestling, which is one of only a handful of sports to have survived from the inaugural Olympics in 1896, will now compete with seven other new sports – including karate, baseball and softball, wushu (whatever that is), roller sports, wakeboarding(?) and sport climbing (huh!) – for one remaining spot at the 2020 Games.

The Committee members in their collective wisdom have decided that wrestling is not popular enough – or at least they did not believe it to be so based on some graphs and numbers that the computer might have spit out.

Wrestling featured 344 athletes competing in 11 medal events in freestyle and seven in Greco-Roman at last year’s London Olympics. Women’s wrestling was added to the Olympics at the 2004 Athens Games.

The problem with sports like wrestling are that they are not high profile sports and do not get media coverage in many countries including Australia – generally watching Olympics on Australian TV is like watching a swimming carnival anyway.  But what is baffling is that America is a strong contender in wrestling along with countries such as India, Russia, Germany, Korea etc.  Surely they will be able to rattle the cage and attract attention to this folly with key members of the IOC.

At the risk of many disagreeing, I have to say why should there be so many medals in swimming for instance?  There are 34 gold medals in swimming and 102 in total including silver and bronze. In the next Olympics they might come up with a medal for scratching yourself under water. Surely they can save other exotic sports from other countries and rationalising on the number of medals in sports that are played and practiced mostly in rich countries. Personally, I would rather watch wrestling than swimming. And synchronised swimming? Please!

Now they want to sack wrestling because it is not popular in developed countries and therefore they are not making money. Unfortunately Olympics, like everything else these days is a question of whether things stack up fiscally. I understand that. But surely that should not be the only criteria! If so we can never get to appreciate sports such as wrestling, martial arts or even kabaddi.

I believe field hockey came very close to being eliminated from 2020 Olympics.  That would have been a tragedy. They have almost killed field hockey as a sport anyway with the abolition of off-side rule and introduction of synthetic turfs.  It has become a sport of power and long hits compared to a time when short passes and delightful stick work used to be in vogue.  It used to be exhilarating to watch players use skill and weave their way past opponents casting a magical web of deception. Nowadays you see people hitting the ball from one end to another with power and precision and somehow it has robbed the charm of the old hockey.

Anyway, it has been a wake-up call for all hockey administrators and they have to fight fiercely in the future to keep it in the Olympic fold.

Be that as it may, I hope IOC comes to its senses soon enough to reverse the decision and reinstate wrestling.  Otherwise, it would be tragedy.

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