Save Olympic Wrestling

Save Olympic Wrestling

You probably heard last week that the IOC Executive Committee voted to remove wrestling from the core sports in the 2020 summer Olympics. The news came as a shock to the entire wrestling community. Now there’s a huge effort to convince the committee when they meet again in May not to nix wrestling.

TheMat.com has the details:

The Olympic Games provides wrestling with unique promotional opportunities and gives our sport relevance all over the globe. Our sport’s formal history dates back to the ancient Olympics in 708 B.C. and signs of our sport have been identified in cave drawings back to 3,000 B.C. Wrestling has been a part of each of the Modern Olympic Games since 1896, when the new Olympic Games were formally re-introduced.

More different countries won medals in wrestling than nearly every sport on the Olympic program including sports such as swimming, which awards many more medals. This fact alone provides justification for wrestling to rightfully be included on the Olympic Games program. It shows our universal reach.

Based upon yesterday’s IOC Executive Committee recommendation that wrestling not be a core sport for the 2020 Olympics, our sport has a difficult battle ahead, but it is definitely winnable. In just a few short months, this same 15-member group will meet again in St. Petersburg, Russia to decide which three of the following eight sports (baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, squash, sport climbing, wakeboard, wushu and wrestling) will be brought forward to the 114 person General Assembly.

The General Assembly will then take two votes: First, do they agree with the Executive Board’s Recommendation to eliminate wrestling from the core program (if the General Assembly disagrees, we are back on the program). If they agree, the next vote will be for which of the three sports will be on the 2020 program.

We must over the next short weeks do all in our power to “win friends and influence people.” To do this, we have engaged many of the most connected and brightest minds in our sport. This group will be led by Bill Scherr (World Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist) Bill represented the Chicago 2016 bid and has personal relationships with nearly every Executive Board Member. Bill will be joined by his brother Jim Scherr. As we all know, Jim led the United States Olympic Committee for nearly eight years and has many personal connections to IOC Members. Also joining the battle will be successful international business leaders Andy Barth, Jeff Levitetz, John Bardis, Art Martori and our President James Ravannack. I will also direct my full attention to this fight. World and Olympic champions Bruce Baumgartner, John Smith, Rulon Gardner and Dan Gable and two-time Olympians Kerry McCoy and Clarissa Chun will handle our heavy lifting. Rounding out our strong team will be our spokesperson Mike Novogratz. Folks, we’ve established this All-Star cast to take the fight to the IOC. We have a great opportunity to show the world that wrestling belongs and that when the going gets tough, the stars and stripes are who you want on your team. In addition to this team we will be hiring several public relations experts to shape and refine our strategy. (Read More)

There really wasn’t much of an explanation as to why they voted to eliminate one of the oldest sports in the world from the Olympic games.  The Wall Street Journal suggested that perhaps the sport is too honest for the committee, which seems to have violated its own evaluation criteria with this vote.

 A sport’s popularity and finances are key items in those criteria. And for much of the TV audience, wrestling will never be as, er, viewer-friendly as beach volleyball. But AP columnist Jim Litke reports that wrestling attracts a much larger TV audience than, for example, modern pentathlon, which the IOC affirmed this week as a “core sport.”

The IOC criteria also note that when the economics of a sport are considered, the “expenditure” is a key consideration along with the income. It is hard to find a cheaper event to produce than a wrestling match, which requires no equipment beyond a foam mat. “History and tradition” are also allegedly important to the IOC, yet wrestling is widely considered to be man’s oldest sport.

Then there is the “transparency and fairness” that the IOC claims to value. Yet less than a year after several players threw matches at the London Olympics, badminton also remains a “core sport.” Can wrestling be less fair and transparent than the many Olympic sports in which judges award points on subjective criteria like “artistry”? (Read More)

My kids have been involved in a wrestling program for three years now. It’s a tough sport that really helps build character. We’ve seen our relatively new program grow quite a bit since our involvement began. It would be a shame to see the growing enthusiasm for the sport diminished by the IOC’s decision. So this blog is on board with the effort to Save Olympic Wrestling. There’s already a facebook page set up to promote the effort, and it already has almost 73,000 likes. You can also visit LetsKeepWrestling and sign a petition asking the IOC to keep wrestling in the Olympics. That effort is led by Iowo Governor Terry Brandstad and wrestling greats Dan Gable, Doug Schwab and Terry Brands.

Here are a few videos I found. The first is the video that accompanies the WSJ article, and then a montage of Olympic wrestling matches and the story of what wrestling has meant to Jeffrey Marsh.