Wrestling wrestled with the IOC (and lost)

Olympic rings satire

Image credit: laughzilla.com


Earlier this year, I wrote about the IOC’s decision to remove wrestling from the list of Olympic sports.

This is good news for wrestling fans, then: wrestling — along with baseball/softball and squash — is one of three sports that will be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics when the IOC votes on the matter in September. Wrestling won the first round of the balloting, so as suspected, it appears that it has the best chance of getting into the 2020 Games.

If this is the case, why would the IOC demote wrestling in February, only to reinstate it in September? The answer is that the Olympics is a business. According to the Toronto Star:

In the few months since it was dropped from the Olympics, FILA, the international wrestling federation, has elected a new president, overhauled its governance structure, changed scoring to reward attacking tactics and altered tournaments to make the sport more spectator-friendly in an effort to get a second chance.

There had been warnings from the IOC to modernize the sport earlier, but those never filtered through the old hierarchical governing body to the grassroots, Ryan said.

“Once we got the slap in the face, we woke up,” he said. “We’ve made more changes in the last two months than I’ve ever seen,” said the 30-year veteran of the sport. “It’s unfortunate it had to happen that way.”

The IOC wanted wrestling to draw more eyeballs, because more eyeballs means more advertising revenue. To accomplish this, the IOC wanted FILA to make some changes, but apparently FILA was moving too slowly for the IOC’s liking. So the IOC demoted wrestling — a sport that has been around since ancient Greece, was probably the most important sport in the original Olympics, and was one of the original nine sports in the first modern Olympics in 1896 — in order to convince it to move more quickly. FILA clearly received that message, as it has made many changes since being demoted. Happy with the changes, the IOC appears to be ready to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport.

This should serve as a reminder that the Olympics — much like the NCAA — isn’t really about amateur sport, ‘sport for all’, or any other such nonsense. The Olympics is a profit-driven business like any other. The people running it will try to make it as profitable as possible.

For the record, the sports that were eliminated from consideration in this round of voting were:

  • Karate
  • Inline speed skating
  • Sport climbing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Wushu (kung fu)

– Devin

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