The smart money had modern pentathlon going the way of croquet, motor boating, and tug-of-war on the Olympic scrap heap. How many people in the digital age care about a sport that mimics a 19th-century military courier’s quest to deliver a message by fencing, swimming, riding, shooting, and running? But a majority of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board decided Tuesday to recommend keeping founder Baron de Coubertin’s brainchild on the 2020 summer program and scrapping wrestling, which only goes back to antiquity.
Nobody on or off the mat saw this one coming. Running and wrestling are mankind’s most elemental sports, which is why they were at the heart of both the ancient and modern Games. But the IOC, intent upon “renewing and renovating” its sports menu by adding the likes of golf and rugby sevens for Rio de Janeiro, figured grappling is less relevant than taekwondo and field hockey, which reportedly were the other sports at risk.