WRESTLING IS the oldest Olympic competition, a tradition harking back to the original Greek contests — which is one reason why the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation to eliminate wrestling from the Summer Games beginning in 2020 came as an unwelcome shock to the sports world. But history isn’t the only reason why the IOC should reconsider its decision when it meets again in May in Russia. Under any objective criteria, wrestling should stay.
While sports such as beach volleyball might baffle the ancient Greeks, it’s reasonable for the Olympic committee to update its roster of events over time; the games need appeal to new generations of athletes. For 2020, the IOC wanted to free up a spot for a new sport and allow plenty of time for international competitions beforehand. The criteria the committee used in deciding which sport to eliminate ranged from television ratings to ticket sales.
There is a lot of speculation, given previous accusations that IOC members are easily bought, that the vote was corrupt. Regardless, it’s difficult to comprehend: Wrestling showed healthy ticket sales in the 2012 London Olympics, scored higher than the modern pentathlon on most measures used by the committee, and has more depth than other sports under consideration for the chopping block, such as synchronized swimming and (who knew?) trampoline.
The vote will be revisited later this year. There will be lots of jockeying, as various sports federations attempt to protect their spots. But if anything should move the Olympic committee, it’s the fact that there are 167 active national federations who compete on the mat — a far greater number than most other sports. Wrestling is one of the world’s oldest sports, and it still brings nations together. It’s a part of the Olympic spirit that should be preserved.