Categorized | News, Opinion


In an astounding move, the International Olympic Committee has put wrestling, that’s right, wrestling, out of the Olympic Games!  Here’s the ABC news report; Here’s an ESPN report.  The reasons stated, courtesy of the ESPN report:

The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission that analyzed 39 criteria, including TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.

A decision like this reveals the true motives of the leaders of the Olympic Games.  Not the spirit of competition but rather TV ratings.  Not the history of the sport but popularity!  So wrestling is out of the Olympics.  Not trampoline.  Not synchronized swimming.  Not professional basketball!  Surely not!

First, why have just 26 sports?  Why not 27?  Second, why did the IOC place itself into this sort of thing?  Maybe there is a timing issue – to keep the Games from getting out of hand.  I can understand that.  But I am afraid that the Games are being turned into a reality TV show for ratings.  Instead of kicking you off the island – you win a medal.

Now, I must disclose:  I was a high school wrestler.  Really.  I was.  In the 98 pound weight class at Wurzburg American High School.  I was encouraged by the saintly coach I had:  Coach Sellers to try out.  I didn’t make anyone forget Dan Gable, my coaches’ hero, I wasn’t even good enough for the varsity.  But I tried out (When I had my first meet, there was a record crowd to come out – some I was told to see me win and some to see me get beat!  [I got beat by a pin in the second period.]  For I was an outspoken Christian conservative [Go Reagan!] even then.) and stuck it out for an entire season.  I can tell you wrestling is a hard sport and unlike its professional counterpart in TV, it is worthy of the Olympic Games.

Finally this is a warning for TV unfriendly sports such as fencing.  If wrestling can be written out with 177 national federations, storied history of being in the original Olympic Games in 1896 (not to mention in the 776 BC Games!) due to these considerations stated below, no sport is safe:

According to IOC documents obtained by the AP, wrestling ranked “low” in several of the technical criteria, including popularity with the public at the London Games — just below 5 on a scale of 10. Wrestling sold 113,851 tickets in London out of 116,854 available.

Wrestling also ranked “low” in global TV audience with a maximum of 58.5 million viewers and an average of 23 million, the documents show. Internet hits and press coverage were also ranked as low.

Popularity and TV ought to have little if any consideration in what is a Olympic sport.  It ought to be based on universal support among the nations and athleticism.  I would have voted to ban basketball myself until the pros are out.  But the Olympics might take a pro sport instead (emphasis mine):

Among those in Lausanne were the leaders of the recently created World Baseball Softball Confederation. The two sports agreed last year to merge in a joint bid to return to the games.

Don Porter, the American who heads international softball, and Riccardo Fraccari, the Italian who leads baseball, are working out the final details of their unified body ahead of their presentation to the IOC in May.

A major hurdle remains the lack of a commitment from Major League Baseball to release top players for the Olympics.

I am glad to see the stirrings of protest in the blogs;  Here is a wonderful report from xfinity, courtesy of Fox Sports.  I like this comment from Reid Forgrave:

It’s true: Things are changing. Wrestling doesn’t garner the TV ratings of, say, beach volleyball. Mixed-martial arts has exploded in popularity in the past 20 years and is hoping to get into the Olympics itself at some point, and that’s a sport with much in common with wrestling. Wrestling in America has had a mess of a national governing body in recent decades, though it appears to have gotten back on track and is now giving a $250,000 award to American gold medalists.

Oh, I forgot!  The wrestlers don’t wear bikinis!  Is beach volleyball more relevant as a sport than wrestling?   But the girls wear bikinis Sandy!  Don’t you know?  Yes I know but I avoid deliberately beach volleyball for this very reason – I find it difficult to see it as worthy of the Olympics.  It seems like a sport made for TV.

How about this from Maggie Hendricks at Fourth-Place Medal.

It’s also difficult to estimate just how big of an impact this decision will have on the sport at the high school and college levels. The prospect of an Olympic gold medal has been the ultimate goal for so many wrestlers getting into and sticking with the sport and again, it’s hard to imagine the IOC just took that prize away when no one saw it coming.

And this from Fox News’ Jim Litke:

The motto of “swifter, higher, stronger” says little about the Olympics these days and everything about the lengths to which the clueless fuddy-duddies at the IOC will go in pursuit of the almighty buck. At this pace, “The Bachelor” and “The Voice” will be locks for the 2020 Games.

The IOC should have huddled after the vote to remove wrestling and asked the question:  What are we doing?  I think they knew full well what they were doing.  Thus we are seeing the Olympics turn into something I cannot support and would not watch:  A sandbox for pro athletes driven by TV ratings.  As Michael Callahan put it in reference to the TV ratings driving NBC’s Olympics coverage:

Because this isn’t patriotism anymore—it’s imperialist bullshit, a relentless drumbeat of “We’re America, and the rest of you suck,” aided and abetted by the billion-dollar U.S. Olympic complex, Bob Costas the orchestra conductor waving the baton and leading the jingoism, all set to Yanni.

We must act now to save the Olympics from its stewards.  Maybe now is the time for citizens around the world to rise up and tell their local Olympic committee (Go to the pull down screen labelled National Olympic Committees in the Olympic Movement Directory) – fight this thing and reset the Olympics to be what it should be – ordinary athletes, not pros, at the pinnacle of their careers, who will, as the NCAA hypocritically puts it, go pro in something else.  I urge my readers to tell the IOC how you feel.  Here is the address and phone number for the IOC in Switzerland:

Address Château de Vidy
Case postale 356
1001 LausanneSwitzerland
Phone +41 21 621 61 11

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood "Sandy" Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia's first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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