By TED SILLANPAA
The International Olympic Committee dropped wrestling from the schedule, while keeping events like synchronized swimming, the biathlon and rhythmic gymnastics.
The IOC made a big mistake.
The mistake was making the decision to make a public announcement that the IOC was trash-canning wrestling. If the next Olympics rolled around without any mention to casual fans about the demise of wrestling, it’s likely many of the media members and Olympics television viewers in a manufactured rage now wouldn’t even have missed the sport.
Wrestlers, their families, wrestling coaches … sure, they’d have missed being in the international Olympics spotlight. But, who are we kidding when so many who haven’t watched a wrestling match in years are suddenly mocking the decision add, perhaps, golf and keep the aforementioned fringe sports in favor of wrestling? (As it turns out, I covered and wrote about a wrestling tournament for this newspaper on Saturday. So, I mean “we” as in … most people, not including me.”
There was a time when wrestling was a big part of the Olympics television coverage. Cold War rivalries made it a sports people who knew nothing about wrestling could still enjoy. The Soviet Union and East Germany dominated. Mainstream interest wasn’t in wrestling, but in rooting against Communist Eastern bloc countries.
Now? The prime-time network Olympic coverage is built for families and, particularly, for women. Don’t believe it? Try to remember how many minutes you saw devoted to wrestling or boxing in the last Olympics?
I’ll miss wrestling in the Olympics. Most everybody else who’s buzzing about how much they’ll miss it just jumped the bandwagon and took the popular, easy stance to keep wrestling over sports that most don’t consider sports at all. They don’t know Clark Gable from Dan Gable. The decision just gives them a chance to lash out at the Olympics as big business. And, really, the sponsorships and TV ratings that come with it are the only reasons golf would become an Olympic sport.
The IOC could’ve saved itself a headache by keeping the decision to cut wrestling quiet. I’m thinking that only a few people would’ve noticed it was gone.