The International Olympic Committee recently recommended that wrestling be removed from the Olympics as soon as the 2020 summer games. This controversial decision has been widely criticized as this is a sport that not only was part of the ancient Olympic games, but also have been a part of the modern Olympic games since the first games in 1896.
The committee has said that their ultimate goal is to ensure that the games are “relevant” to the widest possible amount of viewers. Eliminating wrestling also eliminates the Olympic dream for hundreds of potential Olympic wrestlers, and this decision has been a big blow to thousands of athletes around the globe who participate in the sport in high school and perhaps college.
If we take a look back, we see that the modern games have always included wrestling, as well as cycling, fencing, shooting, gymnastics, swimming, weightlifting, cycling, rowing, sailing, and athletics, which includes the various track and field events such as hurdles and shot put. Aside from wrestling, every one of these events will be featured in the 2020 Olympics. Quite frankly, it’s hard to imagine that rowing and fencing are more relevant events that draw a larger audience.
Could there be some better choices to eliminate? Well, let’s take a look. We know that all Olympic athletes (at least those who don’t cheat) work very hard for their medals. But do we really need to dump wrestling so that we can have Team Handball as a sport? Isn’t that basically a playground game? Perhaps we should add dodge ball, four square and jump rope as competitive sports. Again, not to take away from other athletes, but is badminton a sport more worthy of Olympic competition than wrestling? Apparently the IOC believes that badminton is far more relevant, even though they had to throw out players from three different countries during the last Olympics for cheating.
Perhaps a better example to eliminate than either handball or badminton would be equestrian sports. While the horses are beautiful and it certainly isn’t an easy competition, it’s not a particularly accessible sport in general unlike basketball, soccer and volleyball. While swimming includes races, diving and water polo, synchronized swimming also is included in that category. Do we really want to live in a world where wrestling is less important to the Olympics than synchronized swimming or something like rhythmic gymnastics?
Any time a sport is eliminated, there is always controversy because this elimination hurts a group of athletes committed to their sport. In general, it might behoove the IOC to consider keeping the original set of sporting events intact and widening the scope to include more events in the games themselves.