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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on February 28th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 51 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 51

The Benchwarmer

What the fudge is up with Olympic sports?

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

You know that feeling you get in your head—that pressure that makes your skull feel like it’s going to split in two? That’s what I’m experiencing right now. Like a computer that’s about to short out, my brain is in shock—unable to comprehend the appalling news about the Olympics.

I’m sure many of my fellow sports fans experienced this same head-splitting weight when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in February that wrestling would be removed from the Olympic games in 2020.

Now, I tried to think of a more clever introduction to this topic, one that would convey my ultimate shock and disbelief over such rampant stupidity and illogical reasoning by the IOC. But all I could come up with was a question that encompasses everything I’m feeling:

What the hell is going on?

First Lance Armstrong, then a meteor, and now this? Maybe the world is on a crash course to destruction—or at least the sports world is anyway.

The IOC’s recent and rather unprecedented decision was a blow of epic proportions to wrestlers and audiences worldwide. While wrestling will be included in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, it will be removed for the 2020 games, and it’s unlikely the sport will ever be allowed back.

An ESPN article from Feb. 12 shared that the IOC made its decision after reviewing 26 sports. Up for review were wrestling and the modern pentathlon—an event that combines fencing, horseback riding, running, swimming, and shooting. Opting to keep the modern pentathlon, the IOC evidently made its decision after reviewing the ousted sport’s TV ratings, global participation, and popularity. The IOC even went so far as to cite unfavorable ticket sales in the 2012 games as a reason for wrestling’s removal.

However, in the 2012 Olympics, 71 countries participated in wrestling—versus the 36 that participated in the modern pentathlon. Makes sense right?

I’m not very good at math, but I didn’t think so either.

Wrestling falls onto a growing list of sports that have been deemed “unworthy” of the Olympics for invariably stupid reasons. While it’s a travesty that these other sports were banished, removing wrestling from the Olympics is by far the saddest and most ridiculous decision the games have endured.

Perhaps the IOC should brush up on its history and quit attempting to rewrite the Olympic Charter. The Encyclopedia Britannica cites wrestling as one of the oldest sports, noting cave paintings created in 3000 B.C. that depict wrestling and the philosopher Plato taking up the sport. No other sport is older or more widely distributed than wrestling. Greek history indicates that young men belonged to wrestling schools as a focal point in their social education; the sport has defined the modern Olympic games since 1896 in Athens. Let me repeat—wrestling has been in the modern Olympics since 1896.

It’s my belief that the IOC, by removing wrestling, is essentially destroying the framework on which the games were built. What’s more exasperating is the organization’s reasons for doing so—which they’ve been trying to justify with carefully constructed public statements. If I could talk to the IOC board, the first thing I’d ask is if they were high, drunk, or both when they made their decision, because none of this adds up in this time-space continuum.

Congratulations, IOC, you are successfully turning the Olympic games into something that resembles high school: a giant popularity contest where anything goes. Because wrestling wasn’t popular enough and didn’t yield a high profit, it was removed with no regard to the sanctity of the sport. Bravo, morons! You’re proving that tradition must be sacrificed for the almighty dollar.

I’m starting to think that the IOC and everyone who may support this decision is losing sight of the true purpose of the Olympics. These events aren’t designed to be reality shows based on entertainment factor, money, and popularity—this is athletics, not a business. The games are a contest of athleticism and determination among athletes from a variety of international backgrounds. The IOC has dashed the dreams of thousands of wrestlers worldwide because of its superficial desire to make the Olympics more exciting and “viewer friendly.”

The IOC is taking the Greek origins of the Olympics too much to heart and playing god over something it clearly doesn’t understand or appreciate the value of anymore.

In the midst of all this stupidity, it would seem to me there were, in fact, several other solutions that didn’t involve eliminating the pinnacle of the games. All of this is so they could make room for another sport, and I am truly frightened as to what that will be—but I digress.

The Olympic organization lists a total of 35 sports between the summer and winter games; the varieties of sports on this list has grown over the years. Before I continue, I want to disclose that I don’t want to take away from athletes or their respective sports, nor am I questioning their definition as a sport—I merely don’t understand why they’re included in the Olympics.

Looking through the different sports, I was initially irritated that some of these events were even included in the first place. I picked at least half a dozen that should have been removed before wrestling, but maybe that’s just my humble Benchwarming opinion.

Take, for instance, handball. Really? What feat of athleticism does that require? From what I can gather, you chuck a bouncing ball at a wall and run around. If that’s the case, I know a plethora of elementary school children who would make wonderful Olympians.

Then there’s badminton. I must be honest and say I will never understand its purpose.

Better yet, why not remove table tennis (more commonly known as ping pong)? I know Forrest Gump made it exciting, but come on; there’s only one Forrest Gump.

Going down the list, I saw Olympic sports that are technically more like expensive hobbies: equestrian events, sailing, and, my least favorite (no offense intended towards golfers), golf.

There are rodeos and competitions for serious horse riders, and sitting in a boat doesn’t exactly seem like a tremendous physical feat. But maybe steering a boat is harder than I thought. As for golf, you whack the ball, get in the cart, and repeat for 18 holes. Titillating Olympianism, I know. Synchronized swimming, trampoline, and rhythmic gymnastics are questionable as well.

While they’re on a roll, the IOC should just remove track, too, and perhaps replace it with NASCAR or beer pong—I’m sure they could think of some way to classify it as Olympic if it makes a lot of money.

The decision to axe wrestling will have lasting repercussions on wrestlers, from children to Olympians. It would appear as though the IOC is attacking the core sports of the games and is on a serious power trip to create its own reality-TV version of the Olympics.

So even after all this, my splitting skull couldn’t wrap itself around the news. Instead, a new and more foreboding question arises: Is nothing sacred anymore?

But what do I know? I’m just a Benchwarmer.

Staff Writer Kristina Sewell wants softball back in the Olympics, too. Contact her at ksewell@santamariasun.com.