Shock news from the International Olympic Committee today as it voted unanimously to remove wrestling from its roster of sports. The removal would become effective from 2020, meaning that the sport would still feature in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.
With every Olympic event, a new sport is added and so later this year, wrestling will have the chance to be reinstated by applying to be one of the ‘new addition’ sports for the 2020 games. But it is already thought that an application from softball is likely to be the successful bid.
Today’s news has been greeted with dismay not only among the wrestling fraternity but their cousins in the MMA world, where wrestling is one of the core elements of the sport. The decision has also promoted incredulity given that wrestling is possibly the world’s oldest competitive sport and was a cornerstone of the original Olympics.
According to the IOC, the criteria used to determine which sports to drop after the London 2012 games included “ticket sales, television audiences and global popularity”. This criteria is already being criticized as a sign that the Olympics are moving away from their founding principles and becoming an outright commercial enterprise.
"This is not the end of the process, this is purely a recommendation. This is not about what's wrong with wrestling but what is good for the games,” says IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “Today's decision is not final.”
However, the only apparent way the decision could be considered “not final” is if the IOC suddenly decides to vote wrestling back in when sports are considered for the 2020 games later this year. Even in the murky and unpredictable waters of Olympic committee work, this is hardly a likelihood.
Shockingly, the IOC is considering some new sports for inclusion which even their most ardent adherents must consider a fringe spectacle at best. Various ‘roller’ sports are under consideration, as is the musical martial arts form Wushu and the watersport of wakeboarding. Many of the newly proposed inclusions are criticized as pursuits that only developed nations can hope to engage or medal in.
Wrestling has featured in every modern Olympic Games event since 1896, except the Paris Olympics in 1900. 344 wrestlers competed at the London games last year, with 11 medals on the line. Russia, Japan, Iran and the USA medaled, as did the former soviet state of Azerbaijan.