ancient wrestlers

Wrestling has always been a sport that offered little future to its participants.  Prior to the rise of MMA, the post-college career options for wrestling stars were limited to either the Olympics or the WWE, and only the latter pays.  So it’s no surprise that so many wrestlers have found their way into MMA in recent years, and regardless of how you feel about fighters with a wrestling-heavy game, there’s no denying that it’s an integral part of the sport.

Thanks to the International Olympic Committee, you can now bank on the immigration rate of wrestlers into MMA climbing even higher, as the IOC has shockingly announced that wrestling has been cut from the 2020 Summer Olympics program.

The IOC board acted after reviewing the 26 sports on the current Olympic program. Eliminating one sport allows the International Olympic Committee to add a new sport to the program later this year.

Wrestling, which combines freestyle and Greco-Roman events, goes back to the inaugural modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.

Actually, it was the first non-running event in the ancient Greek games, and its lineage goes back for thousands of years before that, so to say that wrestling has historical significance is putting it mildly.

“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 25 core sports.”

Adams said the decision was made by secret ballot over several rounds, with members voting each time on which sport should not be included in the core group. IOC President Jacques Rogge did not vote.

Wrestling was voted out from a final group that also included modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey, officials familiar with the vote told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the voting details were not made public.

The board voted after reviewing a report by the IOC program commission report that analyzed 39 criteria, including television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity. With no official rankings or recommendations contained in the report, the final decision by the 15-member board was also subject to political, emotional and sentimental factors.

Not to mention subject to pervasive corruption and palm-greasing.  To give you an idea of the kind of back-room politics that saturate the IOC, consider this from later in the article:

Previously considered under the closest scrutiny was modern pentathlon, which has been on the Olympic program since the 1912 Stockholm Games. It was created by French baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, and combines fencing, horse riding, swimming, running and shooting.

Klaus Schormann, president of governing body UIPM, lobbied hard to protect his sport’s Olympic status and it paid off in the end.

“We have promised things and we have delivered,” he said after Tuesday’s decision. “That gives me a great feeling. It also gives me new energy to develop our sport further and never give up.”

Modern pentathlon also benefited from the work of Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., the son of the former IOC president who is a UIPM vice president and member of the IOC board.

What a coincidence.  This almost makes the whole saga of getting MMA legalized in New York seem honest and transparent by comparison.

The funny thing about the Olympics is that it contains a lot of events that no one would give two shits about if they weren’t part of the grand spectacle of THE OLYMPIC GAMES™.  It seems like for every legit sport on the events list, there’s an obscure game like handball or field hockey that’s hard to imagine anyone sitting down to watch even in the Olympic context, much less if they were on TV every weekend.  Then there’s highbrow stuff like equestrian and sailing that involve little-to-no human athletics whatsoever, but are presumably included because ascot wearing folks have influence.  By the same token, pole dancing has evolved to the point were it’s arguably just as valid as any other gymnastic event, but no time soon will it replace that silly “rhythmic dance” shit with hula hoops and colorful ribbons.

Wrestling will now have to lobby for its old spot against baseball/softball, karate, wushu, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, and wakeboarding.  But don’t hold your breath, it’s considered “extremely unlikely” for wrestling to get voted right back in after it was just removed.

And so, the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro will mark the last appearance of one of the original Olympic events, and probably the oldest combat sport known to man.  Also frustrating is that golf was added for the first time, but jiu jitsu wasn’t even close to being considered.  In Brazil.  WTF.

[Props to Bloody Elbow for the find.]