It's official: The International Olympic Committee has lost its collective mind. And me as a fan.
Today's announcement that the IOC is recommending that wrestling be cut from the Summer Olympic menu is beyond comprehension. At least to those of us who don't think advertising dollars and media attention should be the be-all and end-all in the discussion.
Any number of important factors can be trotted out in favour of keeping this noble and important sport in the Olympics:
- it is one of the original events in the Ancient Greek Games;
- in recent Games, it has involved competitors from more than 70 countries;
- in recent games, athletes from more than 20 countries have won medals;
- it has recently expanded to include women, making it a truly international, inclusive event;
- it has an avid following around the world and is not that difficult to learn for the more casual fan;
- it involves athletes who are as fit (in every sense of the word) as any in the games -- wrestling is a sport that requires great physical strength all across the body, incredible cardio-vascular fitness and stamina, and significant psychological strength as well;
- although there is an element of subjectivity in the scoring, that subjectivity is balanced strongly by the ability of the better tactician and superior athlete to win a match in spite of any sense of bias in one or more of the officials;
- it is inexpensive for the beginner so accessible to participants from all economic backgronds around the world;
- the basic athlete-vs-athlete nature of the sport means that technology and financial backing do not create a massive disparity among athletes from different countries;
- it is a great sport that we do not see every other day on TV.
Wrestling is what the Olympics are all about. Not baseball, basketball, tennis, beach volleyball, etc. Not the sports that are celebrated daily, that feature athletes who are household names and multi-millionaires, that can be dominated by the wealthy and scientifically advanced.
I had the honour of covering the university wrestling team when I was a student reporter at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. These guys were the most impressive athletes I've ever met. They worked their butts off, in the weight room and on the mats, and were in such great physical condition that they could have been competitive in just about any athletic event they would choose.
They could run with the distance runners, sprint with the sprinters, and jump with the jumpers. They were as powerful as the gymnasts and as fit as the swimmers.
They were athletes in the purest sense of the word.
The decision of the IOC to recommend that wrestling be cut from the Summer Games menu is just another example fo me of how badly that Committee has lost its way, has lost all sense of what the Olympics really represent.