Wrestling gains a hold

Wrestling may well be back at the Olympics,after all. Three months after it was kicked out of the Games by the International Olympic Committee

Written by Mihir Vasavda | Published: May 31, 2013 1:01 am

Wrestling may well be back at the Olympics,after all. Three months after it was kicked out of the Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC),wrestling finds itself in the fray yet again after it made the short-list for 2020 along with baseball-softball and squash.

Wrestling holds a clear edge over the two sports it is pitted against,a fact asserted by the goings-on in Wednesday’s meeting in St Petersburg. Wrestling was the first sport to survive elimination by an overwhelming margin,and understandably so. Perhaps it’s unfair on the two other sports that they’re grappling with wrestling. The over-the-top theatrics associated with ‘professional’ wrestling — from cage matches to costume — is seen as means to entertain audiences.

Amateur wrestling,on the other hand,emphasises on sportsmanship,tactics and timing in a manner that is not necessarily made for television. And though amateur wrestling draws participants from nearly 200 countries,lack of TV appeal was the prime reason it got the boot from the IOC. Wrestling may not make for better TV than,say squash,but its roots and international popularity should put it at the top of the list.

Among the three,baseball-softball appears to have the toughest fight. Europeans dominate the IOC and the sport isn’t particularly popular there,though it does have support in Asia and Latin America. When the sport was dropped in 2005,the IOC said the sport was too ‘American’.

In the eight ensuing years,little has been done to change that image. Squash,meanwhile,has been trying to gain a spot in the Games for years. While popular,squash largely remains a Commonwealth sport,with Egypt being an exception. Wrestling is massive in countries rich and poor. In London,71 nations competed in wrestling and 29 won medals.

However,wrestling’s arrogance and failure to adapt in the past led to the sport’s removal by the IOC in February. They would do well to remain grounded now on.

Mihir is a senior correspondent based in Mumbai

mihir.vasavda@expressindia.com

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