To eliminate wrestling disregards tradition

In 1896, the Games of the I Olympiad were held in Athens, Greece. This illustrious event is now considered the first Olympic Games of the Modern era. These games featured nine events: Athletics, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Weightlifting and Wrestling.

For those who haven’t heard, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently voted for the removal of Wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympics. Yes, you heard that correctly. The International Olympic Committee has removed one of the original nine events from the first modern Olympic Games. Heck, wrestling was instituted in the Ancient Olympic games of Greece in 708 BC. But hey, what good is tradition anyway? I mean, isn’t everyone just enamored by badminton?

Actually, things aren’t so simple for the IOC. They have been under constant pressure to reduce the number of events and even athletes due to growing costs of running the games. Thus, the IOC has divided events into two separate categories: “core sports” and “non-core sports”. As of just recently, there were 26 core sports in the Summer Games. The IOC decided to eliminate one core sport after the release of a study based on review by the Olympic Programme Commission of the success of particular sports following this past summer’s London Olympics. This would effectively trim the number of “core sports” down to 25, and leave room for seven “non-core sports” to compete for a final spot in the games.

After its removal from the “core” list, wrestling will be added to the list of potential “non-core” events. Let’s take a close look at these “non-core” events, shall we? These sports include baseball/softball, squash, karate, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu and roller sports. Some of these sports are quite unique and sound exciting, yet many lack global popular appeal. Wushu, for example, is a form of Chinese martial arts that was included in the 2008 games in Beijing. While it made the games due mainly to its regional notoriety, it was not at all popular and required a separate bid for the 2020 games just to make the “non-core” list. Why should wrestling, a sport with as rich an Olympic tradition as any, be forced to compete with the likes of wushu and roller sports (no offense) for a spot in the sacred Olympic games?

The argument for the inclusion of wrestling in the Olympics is more than just one of popular appeal. It has to do with the sanctity of the sport in Olympic context and the ancient tradition and legacy it deserves to uphold. Many of the core sports for the 2020 games are a lot newer than wrestling.

Take sailing and table tennis, for example. Neither were in the original Olympic games in 1896 nor were they in Athens, Greece in the ’700s BC. What gives them the right to overtake wrestling?

The fact that badminton is a core sport at all leads one to question both the validity and objectivity of this International Programme Commission. Without any disrespect meant toward the badminton community, the most exciting thing about watching it in the Olympics is saying the names “birdie” and “shuttlecock” in reference to game activity.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy badminton immensely. But in the eyes of the Ancient Greeks who began this glorious tradition many centuries ago, is it really more Olympic worthy than the sport of wrestling?

Okay, fine, maybe badminton is pretty cool. I admit that I would be somewhat disappointed if it were to be removed from future Olympic games. However, in an age dominated by professional sports, why should certain non professional team sports dominate over those that rarely have an opportunity to be showcased? Baseball, for example, has its own World Baseball Classic every several years, which pits different countries around the world against one another as they battle for baseball supremacy.

Soccer, or “football” as the rest of the world knows it, has numerous events, including the World Cup. Many consider the World Cup to be the largest and most important soccer/football gathering in the world. I am no soccer aficionado, nor do I advocate the removal of it from Olympic competition, but I feel that if a sport can garner so much popularity and exposure without the Olympic stage, it is far less important to showcase this sport at the games than one of somewhat equal importance but with much less exposure to the global community at large.

Fortunately, this stunning decision on to remove wrestling from the 2020 Olympics has not been met without backlash. Numerous columns have been written, petitions have been signed, Twitter accounts have been created, etc. The world of Olympic Wrestling has not yet breathed its last breath.

The Greeks loved wrestling so much that they based much of their language off terms associated with it. Their heroes would wrestle monsters, and their athletes were the closest things they had to witnessing these storied feats. In a tradition as rich and storied as that of the Olympics, is it not slightly disrespectful to omit the events on which said tradition was founded? I mean, I guess badminton is probably a lot safer than wrestling.

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