As if the week of Valentine’s Day wasn’t hectic enough, 2013 threw a lot at us compared to other years. As many of us were either scrambling to buy chocolates, stuffed animal and flowers, or publicly lamenting (or reveling in) our loneliness on Facebook and Twitter, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, Russia had a close call with an asteroid and the International Olympic Committee announced that they are considering removing wrestling from the Olympics.
That’s right. The sport that inspired the ancient Greeks during their own Olympics has been in the modern incarnation of the Olympic Games since they began in 1896, and may not be at the 2020 summer Olympic Games.
This comes as such a surprise that even people like me who don’t really have much of an interest in wrestling, whether it involves wins through points or “People’s Elbows,” are quite concerned. Maybe my recent and accidental venture as a classics minor has given me a soft spot for the Greeks, but part of me just finds this whole thing wrong.
Now, I can sort of see where the IOC is coming from. Greco-Roman wrestling isn’t much of a cash cow, and it probably doesn’t garner the viewership some other sports do. We don’t see wrestlers selling us Subway sandwiches or plastered on Wheaties boxes.
Then again, I think we could say the same thing about racewalking, which is still going strong and doesn’t have nearly as much history as wrestling does. I’m not one for keeping the status quo for the sake of tradition either, but it pains me a bit to think about Socrates and his companions rolling in their graves. On top of that, I think there is a little more than just tradition on the line here. The IOC’s decision could send ripples through both the past and the present.
Though wrestling will still be an event at the 2016 Olympics no matter what the Committee decides, if they choose to make that its final year, any medals won will be bittersweet. Not only would the champions realize that their victories mark the end of an era, but they probably could not help but feel sorry for aspiring Olympians who had been training just as hard, if not harder, as they had in hopes of standing in the same spot.
All the preparation and determination of these hopefuls and their predecessors will have been in vain as the wrestling world takes a grievous blow. With no major endgame like the NFL or MLB except a place among professional wrestlers like Goldberg and John Cena, many of whom owe their careers to wrestling’s age-old Greco-Roman roots, high school and college wrestling teams would find themselves in a pickle.
Funding cuts and budget issues are already highly prevalent in the educational system, and a number of extracurricular activities, even academically relevant ones, are being dropped or are in danger of being dropped. Wrestling’s removal from the Olympic circuit is just the excuse many schools need to drop their wrestling programs and limit student choices even more than they already are.
Luckily, there has been quite the outcry against the IOC’s announcement, and many people are showing their support for the ancient pastime. Let’s ensure that we keep giving the Greeks the recognition they deserve and keep their beloved sport in the Olympics.