Olympic wrestling needs Coke, not Congress

The sport needs to go to the top to stay in the Olympics

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Politicians sit yourselves down, there's nothing for you here.

So sang Graham Nash in "Chicago," back when we were all a lot younger. Or unborn.

Iowa's Republican governor and an Iowa Democratic congressman have made it clear this week that they are upset about wrestling being dropped from the 2020 Olympics, and are going to do something about it.

Iowa's David Loebsack introduced a resolution (H.Res. 71) with fellow U.S. congressmen Jim Jordan of Ohio and Tim Walz of Minnesota expressing opposition to the International Olympic Committee’s decision to eliminate wrestling. In a press release, Loebsack said he "will continue to work with his colleagues in Congress and those in the wrestling community to push to overturn this misguided decision."

Given that the IOC is out of the jurisdiction of the U.S. government, I'm not sure that's going to be effective.

This afternoon, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad held a media event at the Iowa high school wrestling tournament to launch a campaign to save Olympic wrestling. He had Dan Gable, Northern Iowa head coach Doug Schwab and Iowa assistant coach Terry Brands at his side. To his credit, Gable will leave no stone unturned, be it substantial or symbolic.

Branstad and each member of Iowa's congressional delegation also have signed a letter to the IOC describing the importance of wrestling to Iowans and the Olympics.

The campaign's new website has a petition form that's been signed by more than 2,000 people as of Friday afternoon.

Forgive me for being pessimistic, but wrestling isn't going to be voted back into the Olympics this September because of any grassroots movement, although Gable disagrees.

"Every little effort will be consumed by the national and international effort," Gable said Friday.

This is all a nice little deal for the politicians, who get to curry favor with a percentage of their constituents by getting behind something that few Iowans would reject. Some would call it grandstanding, but why be harsh?

Petitions and rallies and resolutions are fine and all, but the IOC has heard it all before when it's cut sports. If elected officials really want to save wrestling, they should try to figure out how to influence the heads of top-level Olympic sponsors.

Those include Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Panasonic, GE, Visa, Procter & Gamble and Samsung.

The IOC would listen to a persuasive argument from a CEO of one of those corporations before it would pay heed to a governor or a few congresspersons, let alone a president.

What it would take to get one or more of those companies to listen to wrestling and then support the sport in its dialogues with the IOC, I have no idea. But like everything else in the world it claims it brings together, the Olympics are run by cash money. If I were a devoted wrestling fan who watched the IOC drop that sport, I might be less persuaded to do business with Olympic sponsors.

You've got to follow the money. As corporate kingpin Arthur Jensen told crazed television anchorman Howard Beale in the movie "Network" in the 1970s:

There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM, and ITT, and AT&T, and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today. What do you think the Russians talk about in their councils of state, Karl Marx? They get out their linear programming charts, statistical decision theories, minimax solutions, and compute the price-cost probabilities of their transactions and investments, just like we do. We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business.

I'm just trying to be practical here.


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