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Feb 13 2013

Goodbye wrestling, hello wushu?

The world of wrestling was stunned by the news yesterday that all categories of their beloved sport have been recommended for elimination from the 2020 Olympic games. The demise is not quite certain. Wrestling can be re-instated, but it has to now compete with baseball/softball, squash, karate, sport climbing, wakeboarding, wushu, and roller sports and the betting in wrestling’s favor is not good.

I am not a fan of wrestling and hardly ever watch the Olympics either but one has to feel some sympathy for wrestlers. After all, their sport has the strong claim of being one of the oldest in the world and is one that people indulge in all over the world because it requires no expensive equipment. It has been part of the modern Olympics since its inception in 1896 and was also reportedly in the ancient games.

If I had my way, the only events that would be included in the Olympics are those in which performances could be measured using mechanical devices (clocks, rulers, cameras, and the like) or at least by a points system that had some claim to objectivity. But any event in which the scoring depended on aesthetic judgments and artistic merit (like synchronized swimming, gymnastics, and diving) would be swiftly booted out.

Take a look at the competition that wrestling now faces. Baseball/softball and squash I can understand. Karate looks like it might be able to meet my criteria. But what is sport climbing? Wakeboarding? Roller sports? Are they really as widespread around the word as wrestling? Of course, wushu needs no introduction.

My own opinion is that the Olympics has long since stopped being about displaying who are the best athletes and become more about what will bring in the most revenue and the highest TV ratings. I think it is only a matter of time before events like Dancing with the Stars and American Idol and their innumerable spin-offs become Olympic events. After all, they inexplicably (to me at least) seem to get good ratings and that is the direction the Olympics seem to be headed.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    unbound

    “My own opinion is that the Olympics has long since stopped being about displaying who are the best athletes and become more about what will bring in the most revenue and the highest TV ratings.”

    I agree completely.

  2. 2
    Tabby Lavalamp

    Wushu is pretty friggin’ awesome, I always enjoy watching demonstrations, but I agree with you. Sports that get their results from judging need to be tossed out. Any Canadian with even a passing knowledge of how we’ve been screwed over in figure skating should agree.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    If Beijing chooses to lobby for it, wushu will be a shu-in.

  4. 4
    michaelbusch

    I do wonder how they would agree on the rules for wushu. One of the things that killed previous karate-in-the-Olympics proposals were the disagreements about what was allowed and what wasn’t.

    Also: if you don’t like the judge-based sports, wushu forms (or karate katas) would be right out. In theory, the forms reflect actual effective technique. But the details tend to become stylized.

  5. 5
    unnullifier

    The Olympics is really just a titanic corporate event that governments twist themselves into knots to bow down to. The hyper-litigious International Olympic Committee and governments that suspend their own laws in the vicinity of the Olympic events should be causing people to protest the Olympics, not celebrate them.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    Wrestling was one of the original olympic sports, unlike synchronized swimming, lugeing, or bicycling or whatever else. Not that I’m saying the old way is the right way, but since the whole exercise is called “The Olympics” and attempts to hearken back to the ancient games, it seems like the wrong sport to discard.

  7. 7
    syd

    “But what is sport climbing? Wakeboarding? Roller sports? Are they really as widespread around the word as wrestling?”

    Actually I’m quite sure that they’re still more widespread than baseball, which is about as popular around the world as criquet is in the US

  8. 8
    Trebuchet

    “Wushu” sounds like one of the basket ingredients on “Chopped”. I did look it up but I like my idea better!

    I addition to the subjectively judged sports, some of which would be better called “sports”, I’d get rid of all of those based on war or fighting. That would include wrestling, of course.

  9. 9
    Tabby Lavalamp

    What galls me most, and I don’t watch or care about the Olympics (or sports in general for that matter), is that they’re getting rid of an egalitarian sport like wrestling and keeping friggin’ dressage.

  10. 10
    Nathan & the Cynic

    Baseball is played at a high level in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, most of the Caribbean, Venezuela. Where do they do these other sports?

  11. 11
    Jeffrey Johnson

    “Of course, wushu needs no introduction.”

    This really made me laugh, because from the headline I was hoping you were going to answer the question “what in the heck is wushu?” It sounds Japanese, but I don’t recall ever seeing it on the menu. Off to google what it is assumed needs no intro.

    By the way, I like the idea of getting rid of the subjective aesthetic junk like skating and gymnastics and synchronized swimming. Oddly though, figure skating and gymnastics are among the most popular events, evidently among those people who don’t actually like sports, but prefer theatrical entertainment masquerading as sport. Clearly these things require tremendous athleticism, but then so does ballet.

    And let’s hope they keep motor “sports” out. I just can’t stand the idea of lots of noisy machines in water, air, or on land racing for Olympic gold.

  12. 12
    garnetstar

    I can’t imagine why they’d eliminate wrestling: it certainly is a sport, it requires strength and skill, and it can be measured.

    I’d keep diving, though perhaps change the scoring system to a more quantifiable one. It has fewer aesthetic and more measurable components than some sports: the dive’s degree of difficulty, whether the twists and turns have been completed, how vertical the entry is, and the size of the splash on entry (also whether the diver is alive when s/he hits the water, or has broken their skull hitting the board or platform). It may be the only sport (?) where the athlete actually risks death every time they perform, and that has a lot of crowd appeal.

    Figure skating, though, as currently judged, has to go. Unless they go back to school figures, which are measurable, but which would bore the audience to tears.

  13. 13
    azportsider

    I don’t pay any attention to the summer Olympics at all, but I do enjoy a number of the winter events: hockey, the various sledding, skiing, and ski-jumping events, to name some. Those events that depend on subjective scoring methods, like figure skating and ice dancing, don’t interest me. They’re part of the Olympics because they attract a lot of female viewers, and thereby crank up the tv ratings.

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