My good friend Brandon Foose has pointed out to me that the Olympics has decided to end its 2700-year relationship with wrestling effective 2020:
There are millions of people whose lives have been shaped by the sport of wrestling. There will hopefully be millions more in the future. This is why I’m shocked and angry at the current assault on my lifestyle. An ancient sport, so ingrained in our human history, not to mention Olympic history, has just been voted OUT of the Olympics. A sport with no barriers to entry such as wrestling should not only be in the Olympics, it should be the cornerstone.
Sports Illustrated blames the victim, saying that wrestling brought about its own demise by not being “viewer-friendly” enough, not modernizing, and not playing politics. Perhaps Sports Illustrated thinks this kind of wrestling should be in the Olympics instead.
The Economist gets it right, echoing points made by Foose, but adopts what is perhaps an overly-optimistic tenor:
Wrestling still has a chance to secure a slot in the 2020 schedule. But it has been relegated to a shortlist of sports which hope for an Olympic debut in seven years’ time. There it joins karate, wushu, inline skating, wakeboarding, sport climbing, squash and baseball/softball. The IOC will pick only one of these to complement the core in 2020, so the competition—and attendant lobbying—is said to be fierce.
Perhaps the IOC concluded that none of the six previously shortlisted sports really cut the mustard. By throwing a heavyweight contender into the ring it could then promptly, and more credibly, dispense with the rest. Rollerblading already in effect features, under the guise of ice skating at the winter games. Baseball had come and gone; reinstating it would look incoherent. Climbing is gaining respectability as a discipline, but not to the extent that the front-runner for inclusion, squash, has done. Both, though, look weak set against the historic weight of wrestling. Wakeboarding? Please. Lastly, it would be awkward to see wrestling pipped by an Asian martial art—especially since the IOC has kept both judo (in fact, a form of wrestling) and taekwondo (introduced in the Seoul games of 1988, to appease the Korean hosts) in its core list.
For now, wrestling is out. Meanwhile, embarrassments like trampoline, synchronized diving, and beach volleyball continue unchecked, and the cardiovascular health improving hobby for senior citizens that is golf couldn’t care less that its putting another notch in its belt in 2016.