Recently, the International Olympic Committee decided that it has no respect for competition, tradition and sport. I am referring to the recent decision to drop wrestling from the roster of core sports for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Wrestling was one of the original events in the Olympics, added after the foot race. There’s a reason for this decision. Greco-Roman wrestling is pure competition, a contest in which you have only your strength and skill to rely on. There are no excuses. You either win or lose. This was one of the reasons that wrestling was such an important fixture of the ancient Olympics.
To pull wrestling from the Olympics shows a certain amount of disrespect for two ideals: direct competition and historical tradition. These two ideals are supposed to be fixtures of the modern Olympics. To make decisions incompatible with these values shows that the Olympics are becoming a hollow shell of what they once were.
For the ancient Greeks, the Olympics were a sacred ritual that they would stop wars for. If you’re having trouble comprehending how monumental that is, imagine US soldiers and Al-Qaeda taking a week off from killing each other to have foot races and wrestle. None of the hatred, animosity or desire to kill one other goes away, but they still come together for the glory of competition and athleticism. That’s the kind of emotion the Olympics is meant to instill.
What prompted this decision to drop wrestling? Money, ratings and politics. Wrestling isn’t as big of a money-maker as many other sports, nor does it necessitate the building of big, fancy stadiums. Not as many people watch wrestling as other sports, so you can’t charge corporations as much to show their advertisements during wrestling. Combine all this with the lack of people effectively lobbying the International Olympic Committee to keep wrestling aboard (let’s just ignore the fact that even having to lobby the IOC is disgraceful) and you have a perfect storm of mediocre reasons to abandon the entire history of Olympic tradition, as well as the principles upon which it was founded.
What we are left with is a naked admission that everything the Olympics once stood for means nothing nowadays. By admitting that the only real thing driving the modern Olympics is money and advertising, we disgrace the drive and effort of athletes all around the world, as well the noble history of the Olympic Games. If that’s going to be the case, I’d rather we just abolish the Olympics outright. No Olympics would be far better than a meaningless Olympics.
When you think about it, this isn’t such a far-fetched idea. For many sports, the Olympics isn’t really the most important competition, but rather just a nice break from the usual cycle of tournaments and contests. The Olympics are a huge security risk (last summer was the most militarized London has been since World War II), and as we’ve established, it’s no longer about competition, sport and the pursuit of glory. The decision to abolish the Olympics would be highly controversial, but without doubt it’s a discussion worth having.