Wrestling with exclusion
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India's sports administration must prepare for the IOC's September meet and make common cause with furious federations in wrestling's great and diverse arc
You do not have to have been nourished on stories of the century-ago exploits of Amritsar-born Gama Pehalvan, as he literally had the great Zbyszko on the run, to be outraged at the International Olympic Committee's decision to initiate proceedings to expel wrestling from the Summer Games, 2020 onwards. You do not even have to have watched a single wrestling bout to feel the body blow from the news from Lausanne, the IOC's HQ, last week. And really, you only have to see how close field hockey came to being voted out in wrestling's stead to prune the core sports at the Games to 25 to know that the Olympics movement is now gone hopelessly astray.
For now, pending ratification in September by a wider electorate than the 15-member IOC executive board that chose it as the sport that would be discarded over hockey, kayaking, taekwondo and the modern pentathlon, wrestling is all set to exit the competitive stage where its highest honours have long been settled. In September, it will be battling for IOC approval with disciplines like wushu and wakeboarding and rollerblading, all up for potential inclusion in 2020. And just
so we don't forget that this splicing and dicing of the menu at the Olympics is now a way of life, in the meanwhile, in 2016, in Rio de Janeiro, we will have the pleasure of seeing athletes compete for golf and rugby sevens medals.
This feverish fit of discarding sports has afflicted the Olympics of late, with a 2005 decision to throw out baseball after Beijing 2008 coming after a gap of about 70 years (polo was dropped at Berlin 1936). Even the hyperpowerish disapproval of the then US president, George W. Bush, did not change the IOC's mind on that one. America, a wrestling powerhouse, is furious again at this month's vote — and this time you just have to scan the arc of wrestling traditions that spans from North America through Europe, the Mediterranean (including Greece's allegiance to wrestling dating back to the Ancient Olympics), Iran, Central Asia, India and East Asia right up to Japan to measure the injustice being attempted. And measuring that injustice is important, because that goes right to the heart of why sport matters and how its competitions are honoured. It could explain why every person who loves sport should take this personally.