In a shocking move, the International Olympic Committee voted to drop wrestling from its schedule for the 2020 Games. The unexpected decision was made via secret ballot during a Tuesday meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland where officials were discussing ways to "streamline" the Olympics.
Though many assumed modern pentathlon would get the boot, the committee instead decided to eliminate wrestling, which has roots in the ancient Greece games and has been a part of every modern Olympics since they began in 1896. The vote was completed over several rounds and the final totals were not released to the public.
Each of the Summer Games' 26 "core sports" were reviewed and at risk:
"This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. "In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It's not a case of what's wrong with wrestling, it is what's right with the (other) 25 core sports."
Now wrestling will have to face off with seven other sports that are fighting for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. The list includes includes baseball and softball, which were dropped from the Olympics after Beijing in 2008 and sports trying to make the Olympics for the first time, including karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing,wake boarding and wushu. The Associated Press said it is "extremely unlikely" that wrestling would be brought back so soon after the committee voted to eliminate it.
Wrestling has been an Olympic sport since the ancient origins of the games in Greece. The United States is the most successful active nation, with 50 all-time gold medals and 125 overall. The US team won two gold medals in the 2012 Games in London. Russia currently dominates the sport, but wrestlers from Japan, Turkey, Finland, South Korea, Iran and Cuba have all won their country dozens of medals.
Sports that will continue to be a core sport for the Olympics include the aforementioned modern pentathlon — a goofy mix of shooting, horseback riding, fencing, running and swimming. Also still included are tae kwon do, which rarely has winners who are not from South Korea, China or the US, and cycling, which has been plagued with doping scandals.
So much for IOC's alleged standard of universality for sports:modern pentathlon had athletes from 26 countries in London; wrestling,71
— Philip Hersh (@olyphil) February 12, 2013
It's hard to think that the IOC could make such a decision when wrestling has provided many of the Olympics' memorable moments. During the 2012 Olympics, American freestyler Jordan Burroughs beat Iranian Sadegh Saeed Goudazri to win gold. Afterwards, the two men hugged and smiled on the medal stand, despite the fact that they come from two countries that have tense international relations. Wrestling did what diplomacy could not, but the IOC apparently doesn't want that to be a part of the 2020 Olympics.
It's also difficult to estimate just how big of an impact this decision will have on the sport at the high school and college levels. The prospect of an Olympic gold medal has been the ultimate goal for so many wrestlers getting into and sticking with the sport and again, it's hard to imagine the IOC just took that prize away when no one saw it coming.
What do you think of the IOC's decision?
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