Friday, February 22, 2013

Boycotting the Olympics

I will boycott watching the Olympic Games starting in 2020. Why? In a shocking move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to drop wrestling from its schedule for the 2020 Games. The unexpected decision was made via secret ballot during a Tuesday meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland where officials were discussing ways to "streamline" the Olympics. Though many assumed modern pentathlon would get the boot, the committee instead decided to eliminate wrestling, which has roots in the ancient Greece games and has been a part of every modern Olympics since they began in 1896. That is right; the IOC dropped the only true sport in all Olympic events (winter or summer) – wrestling. The IOC claims they support universally sponsored sports. Yet, the London games in 2012 was represented by 71 nations for wrestling (and yes, countries have to qualify for the Olympics – so over 100 nations tried to qualify individuals for Olympic wrestling), which was much more than other popular sports.

Now wrestling will have to face off with seven other sports that are fighting for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. The list includes baseball and softball, which were dropped from the Olympics after Beijing in 2008 and sports trying to make the Olympics for the first time, including karate, squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wake boarding and wushu. The Associated Press said it is "extremely unlikely" that wrestling would be brought back so soon after the committee voted to eliminate it. As if wake boarding and wushu are real sports.

The Olympics contains so many events / sports that I would not even characterize or define as a sport – Diving, shooting, archery, curling, and equestrian to name a few. Without question a skill set is required to compete in these events (skills I do not have), but like golf these are not real sports. I am not saying these events are easy to perform well, but they are not physically demanding by any stretch of the imagination. And when I think of a sport, it should be physically demanding.

Wrestling is the most physically and mentally demanding sport period. It combines the agility of gymnastics, the strength of weightlifting, the stamina of timed events, and the strategy of chess. To make it even more difficult, athletes compete after cutting up to 10 to 15 percent of their body weight. I have played lots of other sports, but I was never as physically or mentally drained playing baseball, volleyball, football, basketball, or running track than when I wrestled a complete match. Wrestling is much more demanding than any sport! Besides, wrestling is the only sport where I have seen athletes compete who are disabled and or with major injuries. In wrestling, if you blow out your knee it is tapped up and you are competing again within a week!

Wrestling saved my life as a youth. I originally joined the team in high school because a teacher was becoming suspicious of my family life. She noticed I never ate lunch and came to school frequently with bruises and injuries. My excuse was that I was wrestling and that kept family services out of my already dysfunctional childhood. Wrestling helped me cope with my troubled childhood which was filled with physical and mental abuse. And as a youth wrestling coach I have seen how wrestling has helped many troubled kids. The great Dan Gable said “Wrestling teaches you to fight off your back in life.” This is true because I have not met any wrestlers who grew up to be “dead beats”. Our society is filled with so many takers, slackers, irresponsible, and unaccountable people, and it sad to say that without wrestling these numbers will go up.

Wrestling has been decimated at the college level as well. Wrestling has been an easy sport to cut because of Title IX and budget issues. Some of this is surprising because of boom in Mixed Marshal Arts (MMA) fighting which combines wrestling, tae-kwon-do, and boxing. It's also difficult to estimate just how big of an impact this decision will have on the sport at the high school and college levels. The prospect of an Olympic gold medal has been the ultimate goal for so many wrestlers getting into and sticking with the sport and again, it's hard to imagine the IOC just took that prize away when no one saw it coming.

The subtraction of wrestling from the Olympic Games is a sad day for the United States because it will ultimately hurt the American economy.


  1. Hi Patrick,

    It is shocking that wrestling, of all things, would be dropped. Like everything else the Olympics have evolved over the years to where it no longer closely resembles what it started out to be. For the sake of curiosity I looked into the viewership ratings and was surprised to find that the 2012 Olympics in London were the highest watched ever. Seems people don’t mind the evolution so much.

    You are right about the value of the sport when it comes to developing toughness and the spirit to persevere. My dad wrestled in high school and he was always the toughest person I know. My son wrestled for a while in high school and found it to be an intensely demanding sport, not just because of the matches but also because of the preparation and discipline required. He was very dedicated at first but at one match he was very sick and had to wrestle any way and I think that experience spoiled it for him. He didn’t last long after that, unfortunately.

    It was obvious to me that it was a sport that requires great mental and physical stamina. As a mom, I found it hard to watch because I hate to see anyone get hurt (I never watch MMA type stuff and I cover my eyes in football when they keep replaying the injuries).

    Perhaps the waning interest in wrestling and the increasing popularity of MMA are a sign of our society’s diminished appreciation for discipline and our increased appetite for the quick thrill.

  2. The whole MMA craze has me a bit confused. I think Americans like more violent sports and MMA qualifies.

    I am thinking about wrestling in next years veteran freestyle nationals, but I am not sure my body can handle the pounding (it is worse with a neurological condition). I am working out with a former NCAA NAIA and JUCO champion. Actually, I should say I am his tackling dummy. He coaches youth wrestling with me in our area. If anything he will make me a better coach.

  3. I like your spirit, Patrick! Keep me posted if you decide to do the freestyle nationals. I'll cheer for you!