Gazette Editorial Board
Slammed to the mat. No doubt that’s how it felt for the many dedicated wrestling fans in this state when they heard Tuesday’s news: The International Olympic Committee wants to drop the sport from the 2020 Games.
No wrestling? One of the founding sports of the first modern Olympics in 1896. Part of the ancient Games in Olympia. How could wrestling ever not be part of the Games?
Because the IOC does what it thinks is best for the Olympics overall — TV ratings, revenue potential — not necessarily what’s best for the sport.
The Olympic Games have changed. Professionals are allowed to compete. Costs run in the double-digit billions. Attracting viewers is a huge driver of decisions.
Wrestling still has an outside chance to be part of the 2020 Games. But it must compete for one open spot along with baseball and softball, martial arts karate and wushu, rollersports, wakeboarding, squash and sports climbing. In May, the IOC executive board will decide the survivors for a final vote in September.
The Games are a global stage for many sports that don’t otherwise get a lot of public attention. That’s a plus but there’s a downside if such a sport is axed.
Iowans love and support wrestling, yet the sport’s promotion and financial support worldwide likely will suffer if the IOC action isn’t reversed. It’s also bad news for Iowa City and Coralville, which set an attendance record as hosts for the Olympic Trials last April and plan to bid for that event beyond 2016.
It’s naive to assume that the Olympics are static. Interests do change. Yet it’s just wrong that a sport that has showcased many of the world’s greatest athletes — Iowa’s legendary Dan Gable among them — may not be represented in the Games seven years from now.
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