We've known for decades that members of the International Olympic Committee are money-grubbing scum--interested only in lining their own pockets and those of their cronies. But now they appear to be hell-bent on destroying the very spirit of the Games. How else to explain the decision this week to put Wrestling on the chopping block for the 2020 Games.
Wrestling is one of the core sports upon which not just the Modern Games were built--but the Ancient Olympics Games as well (insert naked Greek guys jokes here). It captures one of the most basic nature of human competition--I think that I am stronger than you, and I'm about to prove it.
Some of America's greatest Olympians were wrestlers. Dan Gable (the GREATEST WRESTLER OF ALL TIME) didn't give up a single point to his opponents in capturing the Freestyle Gold at the 1972 Games in Munich. Rulon Gardner gave us the "Miracle On The Mat" in ending Russian Aleksandr Karelin's 13-YEAR undefeated streak to win Gold in Greco-Roman Wrestling at the 2000 games in Sydney. That same year Garrett Lowney from tiny Freedom, Wisconsin won Bronze in his weight class in Greco-Roman. In 2004, Kurt Angle won Gold in Freestyle competing with BROKEN VETERBRAE IN HIS NECK!! That same year, Cael Sanderson capped off an undefeated amateur career (with a record 4 UNDEFEATED NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS) with Freestyle Gold. And in Beijing in 2008, Henry Cejudo--the son of illegal immigrants in South Central LA--became the youngest American wrestler EVER to win a Gold medal.
And those are just the stories of American glory. There are hundreds of similar athletes with similar amazing tales from dozens of other countries over the years as well. But that isn't good enough for the IOC. Wrestling's biggest problem? It doesn't make for good TV. Better to have the "chick flick" equivalent of sports: Synchronized Swimming or Rhythmic Gymnastics in order to assure better ratings--and thus bigger TV contracts from NBC.
If the IOC needs to cut a sport to save Wrestling, could I offer up Golf as an option? Golf needs the Olympics like it needs longer rounds and slower play. Golf already has four major events (cleverly called "Majors") EVERY YEAR. Plus, it already has heated international competitions like the Ryder Cup and President's Cup being contested on biennial cycles. Besides, the British Open has qualifying events on every continent except Antarctica--making it a de facto "World Championship". But the IOC decided a couple of years ago that it wanted in on the money that big-time golf can bring in.
2016 will be the first Olympic Golf Tournament (provided Rio de Janeiro can actually get the course built in time)--and the hope is that Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will play--bringing with them the huge built-in TV audience and sponsors. That is not a given however, as Tiger cares only about the Majors (and an Olympic Gold wouldn't count toward his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus' record of 18) and Rory may sit out because he is worried about offending entire nations--since he is eligible to play for either Great Britain or Ireland. So how many people would tune in if Team USA is Matt Kuchar and Keegan Bradley?
But golf will stay, if only for the giant dollar signs attached to it. You don't think Titleist/Addidas, Taylor Made, Nike and all the other manufacturers aren't going to pony up big bucks to be the "Official Driver, Fairway Woods, Irons, Wedges, Putter, Ball, Tee, Bag, Shirt, Shoes, Spikes, Cap, Umbrella, Divot Repair, Towel and Gloves of the Olympic Games"? It's too bad wrestlers only have shoes, singlets and those ear muffs to sell.
If sensibility is not restored by 2020 and Wrestling is not re-instated as a sport, it might be time to change the Olympic motto from "Citius, Altius, Fortius" ("Faster, Higher, Stronger) to "Stultior, Extorquendo, Rapacitate" (Dumber, Cockier, Greedier)