Wednesday Reading Room: Wrestling Fallout

The IOC is getting pounded for its decision to cut wrestling from the 2020 Olympics

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There was so much good and informative stuff written Tuesday after the International Olympic Committee announced it was dropping wrestling from the 2020 Summer Olympics. Here is a collection:

According to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, the IOC's poor decision to add golf to the Olympics cost wrestling. He wrote:

The Olympics are special when they offer the ultimate global competition for a group of athletes, where everyone builds to this singular moment. It doesn't matter if it's a millionaire such as Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, or a teenage gymnast with a dream, or a poor courageous middle distance runner out of Central Africa, the Olympics are an accomplishment that brings joy and tears and importance and everything.

Rory McIlroy will win a gold in Rio and then head off to his next event. Yes, it will be cool. Yes, he'll say the right thing. Yes, he'll enjoy it – the way the professional tennis players enjoy it – but it isn't bigger than the British Open or whatever major is next.

It probably won't be as important as even the Ryder Cup, golf's fine international competition.

The IOC should seek sports that care about the Olympics, not just jamming popular TV sports into the Olympic system and pretending it's the same thing.

Alan Abrahamson of says FILA, wrestling's governing body, was asleep at the switch.

What was FILA’s political strategy? Nothing, apparently.

Who was advocating inside the IOC board for wrestling? No one, seemingly — of all the biggest wrestling countries, none have seats on the IOC board.

A belated, after-the-vote statement on the FILA website declared that it was “greatly astonished” by the IOC action and would take “all necessary measures” to try to get back on the program.

“Greatly astonished”? Like gambling in the movie, “Casablanca.” Shocking, just shocking.

Jason Belzer of Forbes magazine says eliminating wrestling from the Olympics won't please the possible hosts for the 2020 Games. Here he quotes Michael Novogratz, the co-chairman of the U.S. Wrestling Federation and the person Iowa Coach Tom Brands pinpointed Tuesday as a leader of the sport's campaign to be re-admitted into the 2020 Games when the IOC meets in September to add a sport.

“The IOC has a pretty arcane set-up. Even though the NBC contract pays for 70% of the Olympics, the United States only has 3 of 115 representatives on the general board, and none on the 15 member executive board,” Novogratz claims. “The [executive] board is dominated by central European representatives whose countries have very little wrestling tradition. It’s very incestuous and sports are forced to lobby the committee members to stay in favor,” he adds. ...

“We have to find a collation of the willing among the Russians and Iranians to help out. The three countries (Japan, Turkey, and Spain) that are up for hosting the Olympics in 2020 all have tremendous wrestling traditions. It would be devastating for any of them if they were allowed to host the Olympics but not compete in the sport which they have the best chances of winning in,” said Novogratz.

Time magazine's Henry Gregory asks a simple question:

Why can’t IOC just add another sport and keep wrestling, you ask? Because the organization values exclusivity and clubbiness and self-importance. There are 26 sports now. Would it hurt anyone or compromise the Olympics or be a huge economic burden to have 27 sports on the summer program? No.

Reid Forgrave of compares the IOC to New Coke and Napoleon invading Russia.

On the surface, this is simply a dumb, shortsighted decision, based on fleeting things like television ratings.

But deeper down, there’s a stench of something unsavory here. It feels like another politically motivated decision by the most political organization in sports.


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