Wrestling and the Olympics

I’ve been very slow to get to this, but I really don’t understand why wrestling has been dropped from the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has had problems with corruption in the past, so I love this statement:

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.

“It was an extremely difficult decision to take,” added IOC Vice President Thomas Bach of Germany. “The motivation of every member is never based on a single reason. There are always several reasons. It was a secret vote. There will always be criticism, but I think the great majority will understand that we took a decision based on facts and for the modernization of the Olympic Games.”

One of the other sports considered for elimination was the modern pentathlon which had this recommendation:

Modern pentathlon, which has been on the Olympic program since the 1912 Stockholm Games, was created by French baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement.

It also benefited from the work of Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president who is a UIPM vice president and member of the IOC board.

“We were considered weak in some of the scores in the program commission report but strong in others,” Samaranch told the AP. “We played our cards to the best of our ability and stressed the positives.”

Hmmm. The report that was used is here (the list of criteria is here and a variation of the report is here). I notice that one thing missing from the report is the number of athletes that actually participate in the sports worldwide, on the other hand there are lots of criteria that basically checks to see how much money the sport raises. It used to be that the Olympics were about the non-commercial showcase of amateur athletes. There were many problems with only allowing amateur athletes (such as restricting the Olympics to those who could afford to be amateurs), but money should not be the main criteria for deciding which sports should be included. I also wonder why 28 is seen as some magical number and on the organization of the sports (rugby and golf will be added in 2016, so only 26 other sports are to be included):

The Executive Board (EB) of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) today agreed on the 25 sports it will propose to the 125th IOC Session for approval as the core sports for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

The 25 sports are: athletics, rowing, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, football, gymnastics, weightlifting, handball, hockey, judo, aquatics, modern pentathlon, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, shooting, archery, triathlon, sailing and volleyball.

The EB recommended that wrestling, governed by the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), not be included on the list of core sports. Wrestling will now join the seven shortlisted sports – baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu – vying for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic programme as an additional sport.

Athletics is one sport, it includes all the track and field events, and is compared to tennis or handball. Aquatics is also one sport (that would be swimming, diving, water polo). That’s a very weird way of looking at things.

I also love this statement by the IOC:

In an effort to ensure the Olympic Games remain relevant to sports fans of all generations, the Olympic Programme Commission systematically reviews every sport following each edition of the Games.

Basically they’re saying ‘tradition be damned’. That’s pretty harsh, but consider that wrestling is depicted in cave paintings from 7000 BC and was included in the Olympiad since at least 704 BC. And yet, the IOC decided it was more important to drop wrestling than to change the number of ‘sports’ included:

“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling; it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”

But why is 28 sacrosanct?

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