This Weekend the IOC Votes on the Future of Olympic Wrestling

Streeter Lecka

Sunday, in Argentina, the International Olympic Committee will gather to vote on the future of Olympic wrestling. Bloody Elbow is here to provide the ins and outs of the process.

This weekend, wrestling could get kicked out of the Olympics, then voted back in, all in a matter of hours.

Just to air out a particular grievance a bit- wrestling was never eliminated from the Olympic program. You would never know this if you read what most outside observers have said. In every medium, I've heard both professional commentators and their amateur counterparts praddle on about wrestling getting the boot from the games. Sometimes they make this erroneous claim to lob criticisms at the International Olympic Committee; they want to illustrate how the supposed carriers of the flame have abandoned the Olympic vision. Sometimes they wish to disparage wrestling, and point out that the sport has become little more than a dusty museum exhibit- important as a matter of heritage, but worthless as a vital and modern sporting spectacle. These criticisms have merit, but they rest on an ignorant premise. The IOC has not officially acted, and wrestling, for now, is still a part of the Olympics.

So far, two things actually have happened, and they have both involved only the IOC's executive board. Think of the IOC as a big corporation, the corporation has its CEO and his (I'm just sticking with the male pronoun here) advisers, and it also has some sort of board which hires, fires, and approves the actions of the CEO. Let's say the CEO of Apple, for whatever reason, decides he wants to stop making tablets, he probably can't make a move this drastic on his own, he can only recommend this course of action to the board, and wait for the board's approval or disapproval.

This similar sort of thing is happening right now in the matter of wrestling and the IOC. IOC president Jacques Rogge is just the CEO of the IOC, and together with his vice presidents he forms the IOC's executive board. This board has about 15 members, and they get together and hatch brilliant plans for the Olympic games going forward; however, their plans are only recommendations, and they lack any force until they receive ratification from the assembled IOC.

In February, the IOC executive board got together and determined that the Olympics should only have a certain number of "core sports", and that they were going to recommend a program with a certain number of these "core sports", and wrestling would not be one of them. This new program of core sports, however, left room for an additional provisional sport, so in May, the executive board got together again and decided to nominate three sports to potentially fill this opening. They nominated squash, baseball/softball, and wrestling.

[Digression: I will note here that placing an arbitrary limit on the number of core sports appears to be an attempt to limit the extravagant number of events in the Olympics, but this gesture is purely ostentatious and hollow. Limiting the number of core sports has no effect on the number of sub-disciplines and events that can be contained within each core sport. Take gymnastics for instance, this core sport contains three sub-diciplines: artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline. Then within rhythmic gymnastics, just one sub-discipline, you have a variety of events like tossing a ball in the air and catching it with your toes, and twirling a fucking ribbon. Hey look at my gold medal in ribbon twirling. I would have gotten silver, but I did a little hop while twirling. Also did you see the bronze girl's oufit? I guess they haven't invented dangling pailettes in Belarus yet, OMG.]

Nothing the executive board did matters without receiving simple-majority approval from the assembled 100 or so members of the IOC, who are gathering this weekend in a hotel in Buenos Aires to determine the host of the 2020 games, to elect a new president, and to decide the fate of wrestling.

They will first vote on the executive board's February core sports proposal. If this proposal does not receive the necessary votes, it will die, Dorothy will wake up in bed in Kansas and life will go on as it has before with wrestling as a core sport in the Olympics. This almost assuredly won't be the case. The IOC constitution is fairly mute on the procedures regarding re-votes, and as this article explains, President Rogge can keep holding re-vote after re-vote until the proposal receives the proper approval.

So the core sport proposal will get ratified. Then, and only then, will wrestling actually be kicked out of the Olympics, if only temporarily. After this, the assembled IOC will consider which provisional sport to add, and vote until either wrestling, baseball/softball, or squash receive a simple majority.

This Washington Post article and other sources say that wrestling is now a virtual lock to get in if the executive board recommendation is ratified. I hope this is true, but I have my doubts.

See, the beauty of wrestling lies in the precious lessons it teaches us about life. In wrestling we learn to deal with extreme pain and heartbreak, and to keep on going. When I was coaching, I remember a conversation I had with an athlete I coached after he quit at the end of a match to get eliminated at a big tournament. I asked him why he gave up.

He said, "I didn't want to give up Coach, but he kept punching me in the nuts, you and the ref couldn't see."

I responded, "I understand, and he shouldn't have done that, but remember, one day life is going to punch you in the nuts a million times harder then that kid, and you won't have the option of lying there on the mat."

If the IOC ends up cutting wrestling from the Olympics on Sunday, it will be delivering a walloping punch right to the tender nether regions of the millions around the world who love the sport, and who need it, including me. Thus, in its thrashing death throes, wrestling would teach its greatest life lesson ever.

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