IOC Officials "Keen To Appeal To Younger Audiences" Drop Wrestling From 2020 Olympics
More than a century after it was included in the inaugural Olympics, wrestling "may be forced into submission" after the IOC exec board proposed dropping the sport in '20, according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. The recommendation "hands a reprieve" to modern pentathlon, which was named as a sport possibly on the chopping block. Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896. Olympic chiefs, who previously approved the additions of golf and rugby sevens for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, are "keen to appeal to younger audiences while attracting sponsorship around more commercially minded sports." However, the IOC's 15-strong exec board chose to drop wrestling after "considering a range of criteria" including TV ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation (LONDON TIMES, 2/12). In London, Jacquelin Magnay reported British Wrestling CEO Colin Nicholson said that the decision was "very disappointing," but he was hopeful the IOC would "change its mind later in the year." Nicholson said, "It is very disappointing, however it's not a final decision, and we would hope to be added back in September. The Olympics is the highest goal our athletes have, but if it is cut they can look to the Commonwealth Games" (TELEGRAPH, 2/12).
SEEKING A REPRIEVE: REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann reported "it is unlikely" that the decision will get a reprieve when the IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina votes on the recommendation in September. IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said, "This is not the end of the process, this is purely a recommendation. It is the session which is sovereign." The exec board vote comes "as a major surprise" after other sports, including modern pentathlon and taekwondo, were "seen at risk of losing out their place due to their lower global appeal." While pentathlon and taekwondo have the support of senior IOC members, wrestling is "not strongly represented in the IOC's decision-making body." IOC sources said that "in the secret ballot there were four sports battling to avoid the cut: field hockey, modern pentathlon, taekwondo and wrestling" (REUTERS, 2/12). The BBC wrote there is a "slim chance wrestling may win a reprieve." However, it will be vying with seven other sports that are battling for inclusion, including squash, roller sports and sport climbing. Amateur wrestling's world governing body, the Int'l Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA), said it was "greatly astonished" by the decision. FILA said, "FILA will take all necessary steps to convince the executive committee and members of the IOC of this aberration of a decision against one of the founding sports of the ancient and modern Olympic Games. FILA has always complied with IOC rules, is present in 180 countries where wrestling is a national sport for many, offering athletes their only chance of competing at the Olympics and contributing to the Games' universality" (BBC, 2/12).
COUNTRY COMPLAINTS: The JAPAN TIMES wrote the decision is "a bitter shock for Japan." Wrestling produced six of Japan's 38 Olympic Medals at the London Games, including four its seven Gold. Three-time Olympic wrestling Gold Medalist Saori Yoshida said, "I cannot believe it. This is nothing but shocking and frustrating." IOC honorary member Chiharu Igaya said that "he was stunned when he received word of the decision." Igaya: "I learned of it in a mail I received from the IOC. I couldn't believe my eyes." Japanese Olympic Committee Chair Tsunekazu Takeda said that it "was completely out of the blue." Takeda: "I find it a little hard to believe. There was absolutely no hint of this. I'm stunned" (JAPAN TIMES, 2/13). Indian Silver Medalist Sushil Kumar said, "I don't see any reason why IOC decided to drop wrestling from the 2020 Olympic program. I am still finding it difficult to come to terms with the news." Kumar's childhood friend and London 2012 Bronze Medalist Yogeshwar Dutt said the decision would be a "big setback" for upcoming wrestlers. Dutt said, "Wrestling has made India a force to reckon with in the Olympic arena, and the IOC has dropped a worldwide famous sport from its list. It's a shocking news to me." Dutt: "What about the upcoming wrestlers? What about their futures?" (PTI, 2/12). REUTERS' Karolos Grohmann noted Russian Wrestling Federation President Mikhail Mamiashvili "was shocked by the decision but was confident his sport would remain in the Games." Mamiashvili said, "I'm absolutely convinced this ancient sport will retain its status. But FILA (the world amateur wrestling federation), the whole wrestling community must take a more active role in the process. We need to make some drastic changes in the sport, make it more attractive, especially for TV audience." Int'l Modern Pentathlon Union President Klaus Schormann "welcomed the news." Schormann: "In the last few years we acted and took decisions to make our sport more telegenic and more compact. So every good news is further motivation for us" (REUTERS, 2/12).
THE DEATH OF THE SPORT?: Rich Santoli, northeast representative for USA Wrestling junior programs and head of New Jersey Wrestling: "This could be the death of USA Wrestling. Why would we pay into USA Wrestling? If we aren't going to the Olympics why are we doing it anymore?" Bulgarian Wrestling Federation General Secretary Valentin Savov said, "We are shocked, of course, this is a sport that was part of the very first Olympics. We have no explanation. We're totally surprised because we even discussed (during the London Olympics) to increase the number of weight categories in women's wrestling." Boston University senior lecturer Frank Shorr: "I wonder how much of this is profit orientated -- ticket sales versus operating costs" (REUTERS, 2/12). On the London GUARDIAN's "Iran Blog Inside The Crisis" Saeed Kamali Dehghan wrote that in Iran, "where wrestling has a significant following," the committee's decision has "taken many by surprise and shock, prompting the head of the country's national Olympic committee to say he would lobby against it." Iranian NOC President Mohammad Ali-Abadi said, "This will be a huge blow to our country's sports. Wrestling is one of our country's most popular and dominant sports" (GUARDIAN, 2/12). The SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG wrote "the historic sport of wrestling is threatened to sink into insignificance." German Wrestling Association (DRB) Sport Dir Jannis Zamanduridis said, "It is a giant shock to me. There were talks about changes, but not that one of the most historic sports would be dropped from the program. People all around the world wrestle. With this decision a part of the Olympic idea dies for me" (SÜDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG, 2/12).
GRAPPLING WITH THE DECISION: Many Twitter users spoke out against the news. Yahoo Sports' Maggie Hendricks wrote, "I am literally in tears about wrestling being dropped from the Olympics. I don't understand and am heartbroken." espnW.com's Beau Dure wrote, "That I did not expect. Still time to change course, but wow." The N.Y. Times’ Christopher Clarey wrote, "Surprised wrestling has to fight for 2020 spot but good thing about 2020 candidate sports is except for baseball, #Olympics would be summit." The Newark Star-Ledger's Steve Politi: "Drop wrestling from the Olympics? Are you out of your bribe-taking minds, IOC?" Raleigh-based WDNC-AM host Mike Maniscalco: "It's official, the people running the Olympics don't know what they are doing." The Boston Globe's Kevin Paul Dupont: "If I go to the circus, I expect to see elephants. If i go to the Olympics, I expect to see wrestlers. IOC=Five Ring Circus." PR consultant Joe Favorito: "Very disappointing decision by #IOC today to drop wrestling... Pentathlon and Dressage stay, but wrestling goes? Cmon. Out of touch again." The Montreal Gazette's Dave Stubbs: "Might as well just choose Olympic program based on sports' Xbox popularity." Payne Sports Media Strategies CEO & Chair Michael Payne: "Wrestling out? One of the most iconic images from ancient games & all those Greek pots. Major break with history." Yahoo Sports' Dave Brown: "Isn't wrestling (and the marathon) pretty much why we have an Olympics?" SI.com's Bryan Armen Graham: "This is a disgrace. How does the IOC remove one of the most ancient sports in the world from the Olympic program?" The Chicago Tribune's Philip Hersh: "So much for IOC's alleged standard of universality for sports: modern pentathlon had athletes from 26 countries in London; wrestling, 71. ...Wrestling not only was part of the first modern Olympics, it was a featured event in the ancient Olympics." But former USOC Exec Dir Harvey Schiller wrote, "Wrestling:few asian, African, or Latin participants. Not great TV."
WHY WRESTLING? Yahoo Sports' Steve McAllister wrote, "Given the embarrassment around the badminton tanking in London,IOC could have sent a strong message by shuttlecocking them to sidelines. … Also wondered if opportunity missed to drop one of the sports that involves judging." Blogger Shawn Courchesne wrote, "Is the IOC for real? Dropping wrestling as an Olympic sport? But there will still be crap like team handball and rhythmic gymnastics? CNN/Turner Sports' Rachel Nichols: "Wrestling dropped from 2020 Olympics ... Really don't understand this. Drop wrestling but keep CANOEING? really??" The N.Y. Post's Mike Vaccaro: "So wrestling is out of the Olympics and synchronized diving stays in? I can't imagine Zeus is happy about this." The Detroit News' John Niyo: "IOC keeps modern pentathlon, axes wrestling. Dumb. Should add wrestling/baseball to pentathlon, call it modern heptathlon. Who would notice?" The National Post's Bruce Arthur: "Well, at least the IOC kept rhythmic gymnastics and dressage. Maybe those events could be modified to include wrestling." SI.com's Michael Rosenberg: "Sorry to see the IOC dump wrestling, but glad they kept essential Olympic sports like rhythmic gymnastics and bribing."