POSTED: February 13th 2013

NEIL WILSON: Tradition out of the door with wrestling

THE NEIL WILSON COLUMN / An exclusive, authoritative series from Sports Features Communications

February 13 - Not often do the United States and Iran have anything of mutual interest on which to agree. Wrestling though is one. Its future as an Olympic sport will bring both nations to the table in opposition to the IOC executive board’s recommendation to drop it from the 2020 programme.

Only in athletics and swimming has the US won more Olympic medals than in wrestling. More than half of Iran’s Olympic champions have been wrestlers, and almost two-thirds of its total medals came from the sport.

The precise grounds on which the EB base its judgement the IOC does not say . Spokesman Mark Adams said that it is “not what’s wrong with wrestling but what is good for Olympics.”

Its failing in IOC minds, therefore, may be the wow factor. The Olympic Games in the mind of the present Executive is a branch of show business and their role is to give the audience what it wants. The EB has become the Barnum and Bailey of the five-ring circus.

Catch the modern trend of what might suit its major sponsor, television. Why else would golf and rugby sevens have been introduced for 2016?
Wrestling, in contrast, has limited appeal to the Olympic godfather  of television whose modern audiences have been brought up on the slam-bang thrills of WWF. Yet which of the seven sports bidding to take its place has more.

Perhaps karate or wushu - recognisable under its Western name of kung-fu? Yet each’s chance  of winning acceptance at the Session in September declined because another less popular martial art, taekwondo, survived the EB’s cull, if only just.
Baseball/softball has been tried at Olympics previously and found wanting. Squash has never been conquered by television because the small ball travels too fast for the eye.

Sports climbing is so new to the world – the French began it in the 1980s – that it is arguing still over the scoring, the Americans employing different ratings to Europeans. I would need a lot of persuading that it is a competitive sport in the minimum of 75 countries the Olympic Charter demands any more than is wakeboarding, which similarly emerged as recently as 1984.

They are trend sports. Wrestling is historic and traditional, dating to the Ancient Games where it was regarded as the most popular. Sadly, traditions that have been the backbone of the IOC for a century seem no longer to count.

Just a dozen years ago the world’s journalists under the auspices of the AIPS voted Alexander Korelin -  described famously as the “bouncer in the meanest bar in Hell” - as one of the twenty greatest sportsmen of the last century. He was an Olympic wrestler. Has the EB such a short memory?

NEIL WILSON reported his first Olympic Games in Munich in 1972. He has since covered another nine summer and nine winter Olympics for various newspapers, including The Independent and the Daily Mail with whom he has worked for the last 19 years as Athletics and Olympic correspondent. He was Britain\'s Sports Journalist of the Year in 1984 and is the author of seven books.

Keywords · Neil Wilson · IOC · wrestling

For more information contact:
Laura Walden ()

All original materials contained in this section are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Sports Features Communications, Inc the owner of that content. It is prohibited to alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.