IOC damages itself with wrestling vote

Wrestling's status as an Olympic sport should never have been in doubt
Feb. 12, 2013 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Talk about coming from out of left field.

The International Olympic Committee took the first step toward cutting wrestling out of the line-up for Summer Games starting in 2020, a move that was absolutely stunning to read about - just the headline - on Tuesday.

Wrestling may have been one of the original sports the Olympics were created around, but the modern keepers of the Games looked past that and voted to take it out regardless of its standing as a much-loved international sport.

The leaders of the sport at the international level, FILA, didn't seem to do much to stop it either, according to what's been written online.

The sport isn't going to stop being contested on the international level - there's going to be World Championships every year, but it's just not going to have the specific appeal it gets every four years. The IOC Executive Board, with its move, seemed to totally miss it's role in assisting non-TV-oriented sports with their popularity every four years.

Take soccer for example. Soccer has its own world celebration - every four years, too - called the World Cup. Soccer as a sport, has professionals worldwide and does just fine without the Olympics.

Basketball has pro leagues across the world and does just fine as a sport without the Olympics. Since professionals have been allowed in, it's essentially another opportunity to watch the All-Star game. Those sports, though, are television-oriented, money generating, so they're always going to be part of the Games. Wrestling, while it nearly sold out all of its tickets in London - more than 120,000 - during its run for Freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions, is not a highly revenue-generating sport on television, so it was on the block along with other sports such as the Modern Pentathlon and field hockey.

The Modern Pentathlon - is there anyone in Oregon who trains for that? Field Hockey - are there any teams in Oregon?

Wrestlng gets to show itself off every four years, much like figure skating or ski jumping do in the Winter Games. There are competitions yearly with World Championships, but the Olympics are the biggest thing in the wrestling world. The IOC looked right past that.

The sport is achieving great success in Oregon, and is growing more than any other sport - roughly 9 percent a year. Only girls cross country (7 percent) and girls track and field (6 percent) are growing among the state's high school sports. Baseball (13 percent) and softball (17 percent) are experiencing the biggest decline. Baseball and Softball are looking to join the Olympics roster in 2020.

For wrestling supporters in Oregon, who've seen programs get dropped at schools throughout the state to where there are just a handful left, it's another snub by the executive level, even though within the state it's highly successful. Oregon State is among the nation's top dual meet teams and is annually ranked in the top 25, while Clackamas Community College has won a national title recently. Half of OSU's team is from Oregon, something none of the other teams at the school can promote.

So, where's the reversal here?

Perhaps wrestling as a sport needs to create its own World Cup, a tournament conducted every four years and held in countries where there's significant interest and revenue available for such an event. The best way to get wrestling back into the Olympics is to have the IOC ask for the sport to come back, and that's going to take some effort at the top level of the sport, something it didn't seem to get recently.

There's a number of online petitions that have sprung up already, urging the U.S. Government for one to take some political action. The first thing the U.S. wrestling establishment should do is lobby to replace the executive level of the international governing body, which seems to have allowed the sport to get taken down without much of a fight, and that's not the way its competitors are raised to address competition.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments