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The fate of Olympic wrestling is in the hands of the IOC

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The International Olympic Committee made the decision to remove wrestling from the list of 25 core events scheduled for the 2020 Olympics on Feb. 5, sparking outrage and confusion from the athletic community.

The IOC dropped wrestling in favor of keeping the modern pentathlon, taekwondo and field hockey, and will be adding golf and rugby events for the 2020 Games.

The decision was defended by IOC spokesman Mark Adams as a “renewing process”, adding that it wasn’t about what was wrong with wrestling, but what was right about the 25 other sports that were allowed to stay in Olympic competition.

The question shouldn’t be what was right about the other sports, but if it was right to get rid of wrestling in the first place?

With all due respect to the all-powerful IOC, that answer is a resounding no.

To exclude wrestling from the Olympics would be like taking away track and field, boxing or even the pentathlon. All of these events are rooted in the history of the Olympics and should be revered as such.

When the games were still being played for the appeasement of Zeus and Apollo thousands of years ago, men competed in wrestling. Even the modern pentathlon, which was kept in favor of wrestling, has some form of connection to the ancient games.

Instead they choose to make their decision based on a list of 39 criteria, ranging from television ratings to anti-doping policy. If the result of that evaluation had wrestling as the odd man out, then something is wrong with those 39 criteria.

Wrestling may not be the world’s most popular sport, but when wrestling is dropped, and badminton isn’t even considered for elimination, especially considering the many cheating scandals in badminton during the last Olympics, than the IOC has failed us.

When the IOC voted to keep the pentathlon in favor of wrestling, I wonder if they looked at the 2012 London games, where 26 countries participated in the shooting, running, equestrian, swimming and fencing event. While 26 countries sounds like a strong showing, 29 countries medaled in wrestling events. That means that there were more countries that won wrestling medals than pentathlon teams that even competed in the olympics. Yet wrestling is the one to go.

The International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, the governing body of international wrestling, has until May to build a case as to why wrestling should remain an Olympic sport. In a statement on the FILA website, the acting president made a pledge to the public to improve wrestling’s appeal and to regain the sport’s Olympic status in time for the 2020 games.

Wrestling will have to compete with seven other sports, including a combined bid from baseball and softball organizations. I hope the IOC realizes that wrestling is the only sport bidding for Olympic status that can boast the historical importance and the world wide appeal worthy of their games.

Only time will tell whether FILA’s attempts will prove successful, but it shouldn’t be FILA’s responsibility to prove why wrestling is Olympic quality. As fans, we trust the IOC to justly regulate the Olympics, to do what’s best for the interests of millions of athletes who dream of one day earning Olympic gold.

It may be the IOC’s court, and I’m just playing on it, but if this is the court they’re forging, then I’m taking my ball and going home.

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The fate of Olympic wrestling is in the hands of the IOC