It comes as a hard pill to swallow for many wrestling practitioners around the world and the millions of fans who follow the sport. When news filtered through on February 12th that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will remove Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling from its "core" sports for the 2020 summer games, a worldwide response of anger was heard rather swiftly. While many protest its future exclusion from the worldwide competition, it begs the question, can Olympic Wrestling be saved?
First we have to look at the reasons for the removal of the sport and the lack of one given by the IOC. With the decision made by the 15 members of the executive board in a secret ballot, with no definite explanation given in a statement afterwards, it only adds more anger to the worldwide riot it's causing. It's certainly not an issue of sparse athletes, the London 2012 Olympics counted 71 countries in the wrestling bracket. It's also not an issue of funding, with athletes not needing much gear while competing, if anything they should be wearing more to make sure children don't go to bed with nightmares.
What it really comes down to is commercialism and the supposed lack of attention Olympic Wrestling brings to the table. During the London Olympics, wrestling viewership figures fell behind many of the games other sports. While the sport does have its die-hard viewers, it's nothing compared to those who tune in to watch Swimming, Track and others high-profile sports. If this is the main reason for the sport's removal, then the IOC have lost grip of what the Olympics is all about and somewhat blind to the heritage wrestling brings to the core of the competition.
We have to also take into account the effect it will have on countries who's main medal tally comes from the sport of wrestling. Many Eastern European countries do strong in all specialist wrestling groups, Georgia managing to take home seven wrestling medals from London, Azerbaijani wrestlers also picking up seven and Iran winning three gold medals from the six they picked up. Discontinuing the sport will only hurt the future pool of wrestlers who won't see a future in wrestling with no motivation of a gold medal at the end of the tunnel and also in the long run it will cut funding to the sport for others that still exist within the Olympic Games.
So how do we save it? The wrestling community has already done a great job implementing the first step, which is getting everyone talking about it. Strength in numbers is always a big plus and their voice will only get more louder the more people join the movement. The use of social media has always been a great help to share everything and anything around the world, no matter how stupid it is, if you pop it on Facebook or Twitter, people will see it. Some have already taking this avenue, setting up a "Save Olympic Wrestling" Facebook page to try help out the cause.
Only time will tell how the "Save Wrestling" campaign will play out, or if the IOC will even take notice of the arms that have raised in disagreement. Everyone will need to play their part, fans most keep showing support for the sport they love, while those in power in States around America and countries around the world need to pull their power to try sway the IOC's decision.
I certainly don't want to see the great talent that stems from the wrestling sport stop flowing into the Mixed Martial Arts world, do you? I'll insert a poll to see what you guys think!