In choosing to eliminate wrestling the IOC offers us more evidence that the Olympics no longer stands for what it used to. (My story from last night: click here
I could use this space to argue the merits of a sport I love and owe a whole lot to. I could remind you that wrestling is one of the oldest athletic events in human history dating back to the ancient Greek games. I could try to illustrate the unique life lessons and sacrifices that go into competing, coaching, loving, or following the sport. I could argue that in recent years the IOC has probably revoked more medals than its awarded in the sport of Cycling thanks to rampant cheating and doping; but that sport remains a part of the Olympics going forward?
The point is, I could argue back and forth the merits of "my sport" versus "your sport" but that only accomplishes disagreement and irrelevant conclusions.
What is relevant is that the IOC's decision to drop wrestling as a "core sport" from the 2020 Olympic Games is another sign that the Olympics has lost its way.
Nobody truly knows the reason why this decision was made because it was done by secret ballot and the IOC doesn't feel it necessary to explain why they feel modern pentathlon or table tennis or equestrian are more worthy of this designation than wrestling. But I grew up with the notion that the Olympics stood for inclusion, not exclusion.
I grew up thinking that every four years (and now every two years) the nations of the world would put aside their differences and gather to compete with the true 'Spirit of Sport' in mind. That stories like a Jamaican bobsled team or a one-legged track and field star from South Africa would be celebrated by people from all corners of the world.
Perhaps no sport better embodies that 'Spirit of Sport' than wrestling.
There is no bat or ball or net or boat or horse involved. There is no advantage to being taller or smaller or stronger or quicker. Two men (or women) weighing exactly the same look each other square in the eyes, shake hands, and try to defeat each other in one of the most basic athletic events in the world.
Then they shake hands again when it's over. No exceptions.
Perhaps most importantly wrestling is not an American sport, an Asian sport, or an African sport. It's not played in one corner of the world and completely unknown to another corner of the world.
In the 2012 Summer Games 71 nations competed. 29 of those nations took home medals. Russia won 11 medals but Japan and Iran (where wrestling is arguably the 'national sport') tied for second with six medals each. Azerbaijan took home more medals (7) than the United States (4) and two of those medals were won by women from Azerbaijan.
Please find me another Olympic sport where on one mat a woman from Japan can shake hands with a woman from China after winning a Gold Medal and on another mat a man from Cuba can shake hands with a man from Estonia after another Gold Medal match?
Find me another sport that is as inclusive as that?
Find me another athletic event that better represents the 'Spirit of Sport' that the Olympics supposedly stand for?
Find me a reason why wrestling and equestrian and table tennis can't all be designated "core sports" by the IOC?
I'm asking you because the IOC doesn't want to take questions on this matter.
Sean Carroll, Reporter (You can blame my colleagues Norma Holland & Evan White for the embarrassing high school wrestling photos that they asked to see.)