Could we be seeing an influx of “legitimate” wrestlers fill the rings of the WWE and the UFC before long? The International Olympic Committee voted yesterday to remove the sport of wrestling from Olympic competition effective 2020. Wrestling, however, will remain in the list of events at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Some of the biggest names in Olympic wrestling expressed disbelief and disappointment with the IOC’s decision. “I just can’t believe it,” lamented 2004 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist Khasan Baroev. “And what sport will then be added to the Olympic program? What sport is worthy of replacing ours? Wrestling is popular in many countries — just see how the medals were distributed at the last Olympics.” Another former gold medalist, the United States’ Rulon Gardner, made a similar statement to the Associated Press from his home in Utah. “It’s the IOC trying to change the Olympics to make it more mainstream and more viewer-friendly instead of sticking to what they founded the Olympics on,” said Gardner.
26 Summer Olympics sports were reviewed by the IOC in order to choose one sport to remove and replace with another later on in the year. With the choices down to wrestling and modern pentathlon, the IOC voted to keep the latter. Unlike wrestling, which is a sport as old as the ancient Greek Olympics that took place centuries ago, modern pentathlon is a fairly recent event; it was expected by most to be the sport the IOC would vote to remove.
The IOC defended its decision to cut wrestling, which was based on almost 40 different factors, such as television ratings, ticket sales and global popularity. “This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” said the IOC’s Mark Adams. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling; it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”