Olympics ditch wrestling, keep handball and badminton

The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday morning that it’s dropping wrestling from the 2020 summer games. Or, more accurately, it’s dropping wrestling from its list of 25 automatically sanctioned games—now wrestling will be subject to a vote for inclusion along with a host of other wild-card sports for the 2020 Summer Olympics, including rollerblading, wakeboarding, squash and a form of martial arts called wushu.

So it’s possible wrestling could get voted back into the games. But “it is extremely unlikely that wrestling would be voted back in so soon after being removed by the executive board,” reports SF Gate.

Other sports that the IOC decided to keep in the games over wrestling include: Badminton, handball, modern pentathalon, table tennis, canoe/kayak, and aquatics.

The IOC made its decision based on a 39-point evaluation system for each sport that included criteria such as “television ratings, ticket sales, anti-doping policy and global participation and popularity.” SF Gate notes that “sentimental” factors could have also swayed the 15-person panel’s decision, which seems sort of incredible. Who is sentimental over losing handball from the Olympic games while wrestling — perhaps the oldest human athletic activity — goes by the wayside?

Not to rip on handball or badminton or kayaking, for that matter—I’ve tried all three and can attest they’re all super-fun. But to the extent that athleticism is rooted in the fight or flight impulse, the most ancient manifestations of which are wrestling and running. Both were represented at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 but even then predated the other sports in that event such as shooting, bicycling and tennis. Running and wrestling are utterly primal, the foundation of the Olympic Games and preceding the modern Games by millennia.

Is rollerblading more popular today than wrestling? Maybe. (It almost definitely was in 1998.) Same thing with wakeboarding. Hell, wushu could be a legitimate craze for all I know. But there are some things that just seem too elemental to the human impulse to leave out of the Olympic Games—the most basic among them would appear to be running fast, picking up heavy stuff and picking up fellow humans and pinning them to the ground.

[SF Gate]