Wrestling will have to wait until the end of the year to find out if it maintains its place at the Summer Olympic Games. At present it faces being dropped, and unless it can state a very strong case along with seven other sports as to why it should still have a place in the 2020 Games, it will be gone.
Since the announcement in February some very high profile supporters have stepped forward including Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was quoted as saying “The removal of traditional sports that have been central from the beginning and were in the programme of the Olympic Games in the times of Ancient Greece… is unjustified.”
Two former Olympic Champions Bulgarian Valentin Iordanov now his country’s wrestling federation chief and Russia’s Sagid Murtazaliev returned their medals to the IOC as a form of protest should the sport that has featured in every modern Olympic Games since 1896 – with the exception of 1900- be dropped.
Nenad Lalovic President of the International Federation of Wrestling (FILA) saw this as a ‘golden opportunity’ for the sport. “We are very grateful to improve our sport at every level and to help strengthen the Olympic movement. FILA has already begun a number of innovative initiatives to modernise the governance, presentation and promotion of our sport.” he said after a meeting with IOC head Jacques Rogge earlier this year.
One such change has seen the sport already talking to sporting goods manufacturers to produce a new singlet that will look different for Greco-roman events. They are to be applauded for including women in the sport. and athletes in this decision process.
One of the key reasons the sport finds itself in this predicament is that spectators often found the sport unwatchable as they did not understand the rules. Some of the blame for this must lie with the television commentators for not being able to put the rules across and excite the viewers. Lalovic is hoping that soon, spectators will leave events fully understanding the rules. If he can achieve that he will undoubtedly grow the sport’s popularity.
One sport not waiting to find itself in the same situation following the Games after Rio in 2016 is Fencing. Suggestions have been made for the protective tip to be removed from the foil so that the thrust will penetrate the opponent’s padding should he or she fail to parry.
In this fast-food world it would appear that spectators are no longer happy to take time to learn the rules. They need to understand the sport immediately or they will move on. Traditional sports such as these that are steeped in history as much as tactics face massive changes to satisfy consumer demand and maintain their olympic status. Hopefully at some stage someone will realise that without tradition, the Games will lose a great deal of meaning and will simply become another sporting event in an already packed schedule.
The sports vying for inclusion are: Baseball and softball a combined bid, roller sports, sport climbing (Indoor climbing), squash, Wakeboarding, and martial arts Karate and Wushu.