Wrestling knocked out of the Olympics – where to go from here

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard that the International Olympic Committee voted the other day to drop Wrestling from the 2020 games. The reactions I’ve encountered have been universally condemnatory.

Here’s one sample Facebook status (I chose this one in particular both because it’s amusing and because I suspect the person who posted it is likely to come across this post) that I think is pretty representative:

I am sure I’m not the only one who sees the astounding irony in removing wrestling from the Olympics. Are the folks on the IOC familiar with the history and origins of the Olympics? Maybe next they should talk about removing bicycles from the Tour de France?

[I would have put it more like, “Maybe next they should talk about removing HGH from the Tour de France?”, but to each his own.]

And it’s not just people on Facebook.

Writing for CNN, Mike Downey argues for the preservation of wrestling on the count that it’s been around since the beginning:

You might not know your Greco from your Roman, but it was 708 B.C. when wrestling was a part of the first Olympics, historians tell us. And it was 1896 when the so-called “Modern Olympics” were born … and, yes, wrestling was there in Athens that summer as well.

And for the Huffington Post, Sandip Roy makes a similar case:

Wrestling deserves a place in the Olympics because it is truly an Olympic sport.

That is why it has been part of the games from the very beginning. It did not have to get a “modern” avatar the way pentathlon did.

I agree. I want to see wrestling reinstated, immediately, and I want to see it reinstated just like they did in Ancient Greece — naked, and slathered in olive oil:


Even if, let’s be honest, this is who we’re talking about:

wrestling 2

But just the return of wrestling would not go nearly far enough; I want the IOC to bring back all the games that were played at the original Olympics — as they were practiced at the original Olympics. In case your recollection is a little fuzzy, here are a few of those original competitions, courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • Boxing (pygme/pygmachia): Boxing became increasingly brutal over the centuries. Initially, soft leather covered their fingers, but eventually, hard leather with metal sometimes was used. The fights had no rest periods and no rules against hitting a man while he was down. Bouts continued until one man either surrendered or died- however, killing an opponent wasn’t a good thing, as the dead boxer was automatically declared the winner.
  • Chariot-racing:  Chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse as they frequently suffered serious injury and even death, but generated strong spectator enthusiasm.
  • Hoplitodromos: “Hoplite race”, introduced in 520 BC and traditionally run as the last race of the Olympic Games. The runners would run either a single or double diaulos (approximately 400 or 800 yards) in full or partial armor, carrying a shield and additionally equipped either with greaves or a helmet. As the armor weighed between 50 and 60 lb (27 kg), the hoplitodromos emulated the speed and stamina needed for warfare. Due to the weight of the armor, it was easy for runners to drop their shields or trip over fallen competitors.

Personally, I would be much more likely to watch any of these events than what transpires at the Olympics today. OK, maybe not naked wrestling — I got enough of that from Borat. But let’s be honest — restoring the Olympics to their ancient glory would go over about as well as the Hunger Games.

Another problem: because athletes in Ancient Greece competed in the nude, married women weren’t allowed to watch on penalty of death. This would be a problem because they make up — as I understand it — 95% of the modern Olympic-watching demographic.

So yeah, not gonna happen.

But if you’re worried the elimination of wrestling somehow means the Olympics have officially jumped the shark, wait till you get a look at the list of seven sports under consideration to replace it: baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu. I refuse to even google “wushu”.

For the record: shark-jumping would make for wonderful Olympic sport.


2 thoughts on “Wrestling knocked out of the Olympics – where to go from here”

  1. I’m flattered, but the flaw in your argument is that while it may be true that many of the other sports in the ancient Olympics were not carried forward, I’m sure I’m not the only person who considers wrestling to be the sport that most exemplifies the ancient Olympics. That is the point that I and others have been making.

    I don’t know of any other sport in the modern Olympics whose name is prefixed by “Greco-Roman”.


    1. You outed yourself! 🙂

      Also, fair points, but there are still plenty of original Olympic Sports. At the end of the day, I agree they should have kept wrestling – I just thought it would be fun to consider restoring (the?) hoplitodromos.


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