Wrestling was just eliminated from the 2020 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee. What? And golf and tennis are included? Apparently wrestling was odd man out – 26 ‘core’ sports vying for 25 spots, and the criteria included things like television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity.
—> Why should we care? Why should the Olympics care? The Olympic credo is ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius‘ – Higher, Faster, Stronger – – and the Olympic brand had come to mean a way to settle the ancient traditional arguments about who’s the fastest man, who’s the strongest man, etc. Over the years, the Games tried to hew closely to this idea, but inevitably had to adapt to survive, most importantly becoming gender-equal, but also bowing to media-driven economics by adding sports that would be unrecognizable to Baron de Coubertin (e.g. beach volleyball, BMX cycling) but that appeal to a target demo. One of my earlier posts lamented the reinstatement of golf to the 2016 Games (it was an Olympic sport in 1904), because along with tennis, there are already ample opportunities annually to decide the top athletes in these sports, and that they would necessarily crowd out something else more worthy of the Olympic spotlight.
—> Wrestling is now just one of an at-large list of candidates including roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding and wushu that will apply for participation in 2020.
—> Perhaps we’ve reached a tipping point. With this move, the meaning of the Olympic brand becomes less clear. While it originated as the indisputable contest to crown the world’s best in the basic athletic skills for the following 4 years, as it gradually sheds its legacy and chases ratings, it now seems on its way to becoming another (albeit very large) global media/entertainment extravaganza.