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Editorial: Cutting wrestling from Olympics was plain wrong

Published 9:47am Thursday, February 14, 2013

The decision by the International Olympics Committee to drop wrestling from the Summer Games starting in 2020 is a poor choice — and a stupid choice — and a puzzling one, too.

Wrestling is an ancient sport and one of few with roots going back to the ancient Olympics in Greece. It also has been in the modern Olympics since the games were revived in 1896.

The IOC’s decision to drop wrestling has drawn worldwide condemnation — and rightfully so. It is a fun-to-watch sport with global appeal that, like track and field and swimming, seems part and parcel of what makes the Olympics THE OLYMPICS.

The IOC gave little details into its reasoning; the decision was made by secret ballot. However, the IOC is winnowing the Summer Games to 26 sports and has picked 25, leaving the last open spot to be determined in May.

Another problem, according to some wrestling medalists, is that the worldwide body that governs wrestling doesn’t play nicely with the IOC. This could be a move to get FILA to get its act together.

The IOC has concerns about the Summer Games growing too large and is seeking to attract younger TV audiences. Some speculate the decision was related to the fact that wrestling didn’t offer events for women. Wrestling will compete against karate, wakeboarding and baseball at that May meeting.

The ouster blindsided many fans in Midwestern states like Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and the Dakotas, where the sport thrives and from where many medalists hail. You can bet they will make their voices heard.

One argument will be that it indeed is a sport that appeals to youth and TV audiences. Just visit the Albert Lea High School gymnasium during a wrestling meet. Or watch Iowa Public Television get a ratings spike during its broadcasts of college wrestling.

Perhaps NBC and other networks that air the Olympics could do a better job of showing wrestling to national audiences. No doubt with the rise of UFC and other head-to-head fighting that there must be a TV market. With wrestling being tried and true and much less violent, it would be friendly for mass audiences. Many Olympic sports that TV broadcasters show require viewers to wait for judges to give points based on maddening, subjective and confusing nuances. Wrestling, on the other hand, provides viewers with easy-to-follow victories based on pins or points during the matches. For instance, a takedown is two points. It’s simple. How is that not TV-friendly?

If universality is a factor in deciding whether a sport can be in the Olympics, then no wonder people are scratching their heads.

We urge the IOC to bring it back. We urge wrestling fans to get behind whatever movement forms to bring the sport back to the Summer Games.