The Misguided IOC and the Future of Olympic Wrestling

September 9th, 2013, a panel of IOC committee members will convene in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to decide whether the sport of wrestling will be included as one of the 25 core competitive sports at the Olympic Games beginning in the year 2020.

The fact that this is really what the Olympics has come to has me protesting to such mindnumbing redundancy. If you ask most of the people on the planet who have contact with modern civilization what Olympic sport the whole event is centered around, you will receive one of a possible 3 answers.

The first answer will be the track and field, or running events, which have been the backbone since modern day games were began in 1896 and were no doubt carried over from it’s history.

The second answer will be echoed by less of the worlds sports enthusiasts, but unquestionably one of the only reasons why Olympics were ever introduced in the world to begin with; wrestling.

The third answer would be the myriad of every other sport that is played at the games, and perhaps in no particular order.

The Olympics were hosted for many years before actual record keeping of the events took place in 776 BC. There was only one event and subsequently only one Olympic champion. The event was a 192 meter run called the one-stade. The games continued to evolve in the following years and gained more prominence among the territories of Rome and countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

In 708 BC the sport of wrestling was introduced as part of the Pentathlon along with a the Hoplitodrome, a race in which contestants ran with full armour on as if in battle. For many centuries the Olympics consisted of running, jumping, discus throw, wrestling, pancration (a form of wrestling mixed with boxing), and equestrian events.

From almost the time the games began in Olympia, Greece until the games were ceased by the Roman Emperor Theodosius in AD 394, Wrestlers competed in the games.

In 1896, Baron Pierre de Coubertin held the first modern Olympic Games in the hopes of spreading athleticism alongside education for the benefit of all people around the world. He did so after visiting the ancient Olympiad grounds which hosted the games for over 1000 years. The games began with almost all of the events the former Olympics were host to, including wrestling. The Olympics, to this French born educator were a way to spread what he considered to be vital to all education; physical education. The games were resurrected in the shadow of the previous Olympics, patching that era of time with our modern times.

It is for this reason that the flame was adopted as one of the symbols for the Olympics. The flame is represented by a torch in modern times and there has not been one Olympic event held since the 1928 games that did not have a torch lit at the ancient Temple of Zeus, in Greece, and carried by athletes from around the world by foot, all the way to the site of the current Olympic Games. The torch is then used to light the cauldron at the games, which stays burning through the final day of competition.

Wrestling to the Olympics is what the 4th of July is to the United States. Here since the time of the founding, it is very much a part of our culture and festivity in the country. Wrestling was purposely continued in the modern games because, just like the torch represents, it was carried over from the games of ancient times. Wrestling is one of just a handful of foundation blocks by which modern Olympics were built upon.

The notion of removing wrestling from modern day Olympics when sports such as trampoline, badminton, table tennis, golf, and synchronized swimming will be left standing unscathed in its wake is absurd and if the IOC votes to remove one of the oldest sports from the Olympics, it is they themselves that need to be removed. It is cruel to have even introduced the idea in the first place as the beach volleyball people sit silently in the corner without any question to their sport raised.

The sport of wrestling is among the toughest competitions on the planet and the training and dieting accomplished by these athletes is comparable to no other sport except perhaps boxing. Wrestling combines the most elite of skill cultivated over many seasons of battles, with the biggest challenge of endurance a man could face in modern sports. When two men meet in the Olympics on the mat, it is not the man with the most skill, or the man whose endurance carries him through the carnage best.

Olympic champion wrestlers standing alone atop the stand scrapped and fought, were pained and bled constantly, and defeated many times along the way, but rose again and again and they accomplished all of this because of heart. A voice inside them which told them that their opponent on the mat was there to make them a loser. All of their time spent training, every bead of sweat, every drop of blood, every injury, and every time their body screamed in agony to give up, and the tiny voice inside told them to keep pushing through the pain, through the torture, through the endless agony, and this man standing across from them was there to take it all away as if it was all a waste of time.

When you see the award stand with battered wrestlers standing in their places, you are seeing the ones who would never let that happen. They are the champions of the most brutal personal battle of choice in a man’s life. They are the ones who hardened themselves to weakness, conditioned their minds to embrace pain, they are the toughest of athletes. What you are looking at is heart. It was not ability or endurance, natural talent, or strength that carried those men to that stand, it was the greatest amount of heart a man can put into something without dying from the effort first.

A decision to remove wrestling from the very games that made wrestling a sport several thousand years ago, is a decision to degrade the Olympics as a whole and demerit the IOC as a governing body. We can only hope that this will not be the case.