After making a mess of things, the International Olympic Committee finally got it right.
Wrestling is back.
In an inexplicable move earlier this year, the IOC’s executive board cut wrestling from the list of Summer Games sports, explaining that it wanted to look for new sports that would sell more tickets and be more television-friendly.
Wrestlers worldwide, and those in the Midlands, rightly protested. After all, their sport was part of the original games in ancient Greece and has been included in every modern Olympics except 1900.
The ill-conceived move even brought together some unlikely allies. The United States, Iran and Russia all threw their weight behind the campaign to reinstate wrestling.
On Sunday, the Olympic committee admitted its mistake and voted to include wrestling in the 2020 and 2024 games. Although it stopped short of re- instating wrestling as a “core” Olympic summer sport, IOC President Jacques Rogge acknowledged that “wrestling has shown great passion and resilience in the last few months.”
In the fight to remain in the Olympics, wrestling’s international governing body reworked the sport’s structure, added weight classes for women and adopted rules changes designed to make the sport easier for spectators to understand and more fun to watch. In the long run, those changes could be a real positive for the athletes.
Back in February, when the controversy first erupted, University of Nebraska wrestling coach Mark Manning noted that the decision would affect more than just Olympic athletes and hopefuls. Downgrading wrestling would damage a sport that is very popular at the college, high school and youth levels. Manning noted that wrestling was the sixth-most popular high school sport nationwide, with 275,000 athletes, and that the NCAA championships have sold out for four straight years.
Olympics officials axed wrestling because they said they wanted new, more popular sports. It was a dumb idea, and the vote to bring wrestling back shows they seem to understand that now.
Going back to its roots is a good move for the Olympics and for the athletes of the future.