PATRICK J. LAWLOR
EDITOR IN CHIEF
On Feb. 12 the International Olympic Committee decided to cut wrestling from the Olympic Games beginning in 2020. I come from a family of wrestlers (I being the only one of my siblings not to wrestle), so this has obviously been a widely discussed topic in my household. My family members were infuriated that newer, more “ratings-based” sports were shoving out one of the most common sports in the history of man.
As early as 708 B.C., wrestling was an Olympic sport, and in 1896 when the Olympics were restarted, wrestling was there. In an op-ed in The New York Times on Feb. 16, bestselling author and former wrestler John Irving criticized the opinion, noting that the pentathlon, in which only 26 countries participated last summer in London, would remain in the Olympics, while wrestling, in which presented medals to wrestlers from more than 29 countries in the last Olympics, would be cut.
The pentathlon is a combination of shooting, horseback riding, running, swimming and fencing. Despite its “sexiness,” the pentathlon averaged only 12.5 million television viewers, compared to the 23 million viewers of wrestling. According to Irving, “poor leadership allowed the sport’s enemies to take it down.”
Is this a sign that the Olympics leadership is moving away from traditional and historical sports to appeal to what they believe is their new audience?
Wrestling is the ultimate Olympic sport. It is non-discriminatory; virtually anyone can wrestle. Much like running, it requires little equipment, allowing for a greater field of athletes, rich and poor alike.
The Olympics is possibly the most globally inclusive event next to a war, and now the International Olympic Committee is effectively limiting what countries can participate.
Do we really expect developing countries to be able to fund the resources to practice the pentathlon? When a governing body such as the International Olympic Committee fails to recognize and appreciate the sports that are universal and the sports that have a deep and rich history among mankind, they are doing their constituency — the entire world — an injustice.